Photo portrait_JPAL

João Pedro Alves-Lopes

Assistant professor

My research primarily focuses on investigating physiological and pathological factors impacting human primordial germ cell development.

About me

I received my PhD in regenerative medicine and human reproduction from Karolinska Institutet, in the lab of Professor Olle Söder. After, I moved to the UK to complete my postdoctoral studies at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, in the lab of Professor Azim Surani. Currently, I am working as an assistant professor at the NORDFERTIL research lab, at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health.

Main interests: Primordial germ cells, stem cell biology, organoid technology, single cell transcriptomics, in vitro gametogenesis, germ cell tumours.

Research description

Human primordial germ cells (hPGCs), the embryonic precursors of sperm and eggs, are specified in the early post-implantation embryo. Subsequently, hPGCs migrate through the primitive hindgut and dorsal mesentery into the developing gonads. After sex determination, hPGCs start to differentiate into gonocytes or oogonia in the developing testis or ovary, respectively. During this early developmental journey, hPGCs experience several selection checkpoints, which are fundamental to choosing the most suitable germ cells to pass the genetic and epigenetic information to the next generations.

My research is focused on hPGC specification and early development, which occurs during a window of human embryonic development that we have limited access to investigate in vivo. To overcome these restrictions, we utilize human pluripotent stem cells and organoid cultures to model these early stages of development. Understanding the principles of hPGC specification, migration, and gonadal colonization will help us to identify the mechanisms driving some cases of infertility and the occurrence of germ cell tumours. Importantly, this knowledge will also pave the way for developing efficient protocols for in vitro gametogenesis.

Selected publications

1. Gruhn WH, Tang WWC, Dietmann S, Alves-Lopes JP, Penfold C, Wong FCK, Ramakrishna NB, Surani MA. Epigenetic resetting in the human germline entails histone modification remodelling. Science Advances. 2023; 9(3): eade1257.

2. Alves-Lopes JP*, Wong FCK*, Tang WWC, Gruhn WH, Ramakrishna NB, Jowett GM, Jahnukainen K, Surani MA. Specification of human germ cell fate with enhanced progression capability supported by hindgut organoids. Cell Reports. 2023; 42(1): 111907. * shared first author.

3. Garcia-Alonso L, Lorenzi V, Mazzeo CI, Alves-Lopes JP, Roberts K, Sancho-Serra C, Engelbert J, Marečková M, Gruhn WH, Botting RA, Li T, Crespo B, van Dongen S, Kiselev V, Prigmore E, Herbert M, Moffett A, Chedotal A, Bayraktar OA, Surani A, Haniffa M, Vento-Tormo R. Single-cell roadmap of human gonadal development. Nature. 2022; 607: 540–547

4. Oliver E*, Alves-Lopes JP*, Harteveld F, Mitchell RT, Åkesson E, Söder O, Stukenborg JB. Self-organising human gonads generated by a Matrigel-based gradient system. BMC Biology. 2021; 212(19). * shared first author.

5. Alves-Lopes JP, Stukenborg JB. Testicular organoids – A new model to study the testicular microenvironment in vitro? Human Reproduction Update. 2018; 24(2): 176–191.

6. Alves-Lopes JP, Soder O, Stukenborg JB. Using a three-layer gradient system for rat testicular organoid generation. Nature Protocols. 2018; 13(2):248-259.

7. Alves-Lopes JP, Soder O, Stukenborg JB. Testicular organoid generation by a novel in vitro three-layer gradient system. Biomaterials. 2017; 130:76-89.

If you have questions or if you are interested in working with us, I am happy to try a good answer and discuss it with you!


Postdoctoral and current positions

2023–Present: Assistant Professor

NORDFERTIL Research lab, Department of Children's and Women's health, Karolinska Institutet and University Hospital

2018–2022: Research Associate

The Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom



2015–2018: Doctoral degree (PhD) in Medical Science

Department of Children's and Women's health, Karolinska Institutet and University Hospital

2008–2014: Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lisbon, Portugal

2013: Erasmus Internship – Master's thesis

The School of Pharmacy, University College of London, United Kingdom

2011: Erasmus Internship

Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Academic honours, awards and prizes

Current funding

2022: Starting Grant in Medicine and Health from the Swedish Research Council

Fellowships and Awards

2019: International Postdoc Fellowship from the Swedish Research Council

2019: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship from the European Commission

2017: Award for outstanding oral presentation at the 5th World Congress of the International Society For Fertility Preservation, Vienna, Austria.

2017: Basic Science Award for the best oral presentation at the 33rd European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Annual Meeting, Geneva, Switzerland.

2014: Top (Class A) master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences

2013: Erasmus Fellowship

2011: Erasmus Fellowship