Germ cells, preimplantation embryos and pluripotent stem cells at first glance seem to have nothing in common. A more careful look, though, reveals that they are very closely linked to each other. The zygote originates from the fusion of two highly specialized germ cells (the sperm and the oocyte) and in a few days develops into a blastocyst with a pluripotent cell population (the inner cell mass). These cells diverge from the extraembryonic cells of the trophoectoderm and can give rise to embryonic stem cells, in which a perpetual pluripotent and undifferentiated state is maintained.
The thread of Ariadne that connects germ cells, preimplatation development and pluripotent stem cells is the focus of Dr. Vittorio Sebastiano's research, with a specific interest in human development. Dr. Sebastiano's long-term goals are several fold:
- Understanding the biology of germ cells and and their ability to sustain early phases of preimplantation development;
- Understanding the mechanisms that regulate very early cell fate decisions in human embryos;
- Understanding the biology of Pluripotent Stem Cells and the mechanisms that lead to their formation also in the context of iPSCs derivation.