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Idse Heemskerk’s Research Reveals the Role of BMP Signaling in Cell Fate During Early Human Development

28.05.2024 14:27

A research study led by Branco Weiss Alumnus Idse Heemskerk has uncovered a critical factor influencing cell fate decisions during early human development. The research, published in Nature Communications, sheds light on the role of time-integrated bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling in a stem cell model for early human development.

As the embryo develops, cells receive signals and cues from their environment that guide them to specialize into different types, such as muscle cells, nerve cells, or blood cells. Morphogens are signaling molecules produced in a limited region of a tissue; they provide positional information. The study led by Dr. Heemskerk addresses a long-standing gap in knowledge about the relationship between spatial patterning of different cell types and morphogen signaling over time. Using an automated tracking method, the researchers were able to monitor the signaling history associated with cell fate in a large population of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs).

Their results show that the total BMP signaling over time: it’s time-integral, rather than its level or duration, is what determines the fate of individual cells. This finding underscores the importance of considering temporal dynamics in developmental processes. In addition, the study shows that the integration of BMP signaling is facilitated by SOX2, which is a key transcription factor involved in embryonic development. This understanding opens new avenues for predicting and manipulating (if necessary) cell fate patterns in early human embryogenesis. By elucidating the intricate interplay between signaling dynamics and cell fate decisions, the study contributes to future investigations aimed at unraveling the mysteries of human development.

Read the article in Nature Communications: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-024-45719-9