22 August 2022

How do the first lineage decisions of cells take place during early embryogenesis?

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A consortium studying how do the first lineage decisions of cells take place during early embryogenesis has recently been awarded an NWO ENW XL-grant. Jop Kind, group leader at the Hubrecht Institute, is part of this consortium led by Hendrik Marks at Radboud University.

The consortium will use this grant to study how one cell, the fertilized egg, can faithfully develop into an organism with many different cell types, as this is one of the most fascinating questions in biology. An important step takes place in the early embryo, when it is still a small clump of seemingly equal cells that will develop into a polarized structure with specialized cells. The cells in the small clump will receive their first identity and will form embryonic structures with the cells in their proximity. This happens through a complex interplay of cell-cell communication, the interpretation of gradients of molecules and the recording of this information in the epigenome – information that is added to the DNA. A diverse team of top researchers will use detailed molecular analyses to investigate when and how these individual cells decide their future.

Jop Kind explains the role of his group in this research: “We will study how this information is recorded in the epigenome, in order for this information to be preserved and passed on to daughter cells that become dedicated to forming certain parts of the embryo. To this end, we will use our single-cell techniques to read information recorded in the epigenome, and we will try to optimize these techniques to be able to read out both the epigenome and cell-cell communication from the same cells.

This research will provide fundamental new insight into how cells make decisions. It will also help with developing innovative strategies in cancer and stem cell research, and improve our understanding of developmental defects.

Image Kind



Jop Kind is group leader at the Hubrecht Institute, professor by special appointment of Single Cell Epigenomics at the Radboud University Nijmegen and Oncode Investigator.