Special Issue "The Early Mouse Embryo as a Model Organism for Reprogramming"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 January 2011).
I am very happy that Genes is preparing a special issue dedicated to pre-implantation embryo development. Not only is this topic a fascinating area in developmental biology, but unraveling its mysteries will prove to be a critical milestone in understanding a full spectrum of human developmental and clinical diseases, ranging from infertility and miscarriage to birth defects and early embryonic origins of adult diseases. In this issue, we will focus on requirements of embryo development -- whether genetic, epigenetic, environmental or an combination thereof -- and how perturbations may affect embryo viability and development.
After fertilization, the early embryo advances through developmental stages until blastocyst formation. The highly differentiated egg and sperm fuse to form the zygote (also known as the 1-cell or 2-pronuclei stage embryo), which then undergoes dramatic reprogramming during the 2-cell, 4-cell, multi-cell, compaction and blastocyst stages. The blastocyst represents a critical developmental milestone, because cells resulting from the first lineage-specific differentiation - the inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm - are morphologically distinct. The ICM gives rise to the developing fetus in vivo, and pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs)in vitro; the trophectoderm gives rise to the placenta. Thus, the early embryo is a powerful "model organism" for studying requirements and factors influencing lineage-specific differentiation. The early embryo model also serves a special role for studying pluripotency and reprogramming, as it hosts a reprogramming toolkit that has withstood the tests of Nature.
Unraveling the mysteries of early embryo development poses challenges that are often best tackled by asking very fundamental questions and taking a creative, interdisciplinary approach. Here, we will highlight novel experimental paradigms and discoveries that have been unveiled for the early mammalian embryo.
Dr. Mylene W. M. Yao
- lineage-specific differentiation
- inner cell mass