Kathy Niakan group

Mechanisms of lineage specification in human embryos and stem cells

The allocation of cells to a specific lineage is regulated by the activities of key signalling pathways and developmentally regulated transcription factors. The focus of our research is to understand the influence of signalling and transcription factors on differentiation during early human development. During preimplantation development totipotent human zygotes differentiate into pluripotent embryonic cells, which form the foetus, and extra-embryonic cells, which form the placenta and yolk sac.

The central question we are addressing is what are the molecular mechanisms that regulate embryonic stem cell pluripotency and how is it disengaged during cellular differentiation? We seek to define the genetic hierarchy acting during differentiation, the influence of extracellular signalling and the extent to which these mechanisms are conserved between humans and mice. The molecular basis of these early cell lineage decisions are of fundamental biological importance and have significant clinical implications for infertility, miscarriages, developmental disorders and therapeutic application of stem cells.

Selected publications

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Kathy Niakan is a new group leader who is currently working at the University of Cambridge, and will be joining NIMR in May 2013.

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