Alvaro Plaza Reyes
Over the past decades, a lot of effort has been put into elucidating the molecular pathways controlling the first lineage segregations in the mammalian preimplantation embryo. Due to its great accessibility and simplicity, the mouse model was the one that was most explored. However, as recent studies have shown, there might exist essential differences during early development between the mouse and other mammalians species like the human. Based on what was learned from the mouse model and building up on our recently published single-cell transcriptomic roadmap of the early human embryo, we aim to investigate which molecular pathways control the first lineage segregations in the human preimplantation embryo with a special emphasis in the potential role of Hippo pathway during trophectoderm-inner cell mass segregation. For that purpose, we will make use of state-of-the-art gene editing techniques in both human embryonic stem cells and early human embryo to interfere with selected molecular players and test their implications by studying the lineage commitment of edited cells and any downstream transcriptional effects in developing human embryos.
My PhD studies include also a more translational strand, that aims to bring the human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived treatments to the clinic. Aiming to find a successful replacement therapy for Age-related Macular Degeneration, in our lab we are working on the production of clinical grade hESC-derived retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) cells. My contributions to the big picture include the establishment of a xeno-free and defined hESC-RPE differentiation protocol, the identification of relevant cell surface markers that could help in the purification or quality control, and the establishment of routines for the cGMP production of these cells.