[TECHtalk] Alfonso Martinez-Arias: Gastruloids - An ESC-based model for mammalian gastrulation and axial organization

    Alfonso Martinez-Arias
    Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, UK


    When small, specified numbers of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) are placed in defined culture conditions they aggregate and initiate a sequence of pattern forming events that mimic the events that take place in the embryo: they undergo symmetry breaking, gastrulation like movements, axial specification, and germ layer organization. We can culture them for up to seven days to reach a stage comparable to E9.0 in the mouse embryo and exhibit a similar organization including three orthogonal axes with associated asymmetries. This experimental system can be used to gain insights into the process of gastrulation and axial organization as well as the emergence of the primordia for tissues and organs. Alfonso will be discussing specific examples and the implications these have for the theoretical and practical understanding of developmental events in mammals and our efforts to extend the system to human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs).


    Alfonso Martinez-Arias is Professor of Developmental Mechanick in the Department of Genetics of the University of Cambridge, UK. He did his PhD at the University of Chicago, IL, USA; and after a postdoc at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, he moved to the University where he has been since 1987. Alfonso’a interests focus on the mechanisms that mediate the development of animal embryos and, after many years of studies with Drosophila, over the last ten years is one of a small group of researchers who are using embryonic stem cells as a model system to study mammalian development. He has been a pioneer in applying quantitative approaches to developmental biology in the UK, and is the initiator and organizer of meetings on this subject, most notably The Physics of Living Matter, now on its 14th year and Engineering of Self-Organizing Systems, now in its 4th edition.  He is an elected member of EMBO, and in 2012 was awarded de Waddington medal of the British Society of Developmental Biology for his sustained and significant contributions to developmental biology. Recently, he has been awarded his second ERC Advanced Investigator Award.


    Host: Antonella Consiglio