Models of mammalian development

054: Models of mammalian development

Created by Sissy Wamaitha (Niakan lab)

This canvas illustrates the foundations for the models (mouse and human) that we use to understand mammalian development in the lab. I incorporated elements of the embryo development timeline from a standard figure in our lab showing the series of cell divisions culminating in the formation of the blastocyst in early mouse and human development, and then included stem cells and later stages of development (fetus and adult).

I chose a spiral that branches off into two arms to illustrate that although the early stages of mouse and human embryo development are linked by their visual similarities (blastocyst formation, centre), there are important differences in timing, gene expression and subsequent structure formation that result in two different organisms (left and right spiral arms). However, both mice and humans form sperm and egg cells, and following fertilisation the cycle of development begins anew (bottom right corner, with arrow back to the centre).

I embroidered the spiral arms in gold thread because I wanted it to be vivid and slightly raised off the surface of the patch, to emphasise the connections between the other elements. All the other features are done in black outline as a contrast. I used fabric pens to represent the 3 cell types in the blastocyst and their corresponding stem cells – green for the epiblast, which gives rise to the foetus; red for the primitive endoderm which forms the amniotic sac; and blue for the trophectoderm which forms the fetal part of the placenta.

The words indicate the areas that our lab is interested in understanding; how the 3 different cell types in the early embryo are formed (lineage specification) and how these then specialise to form further structures (differentiation). Our lab also uses stem cell lines from cell types within the blastocyst (arrows to red, blue and green patches, top left corner) as in vitro models (stem cell derivation). We modify gene expression in stem cell lines to understand how these cell types are formed (lineage reprogramming), as while all 3 stem cell types have been derived in mice, only embryonic stem cells have been successfully maintained in humans. In all, the patch ties together the various aspects of our research, and the wider connections to development in general.

054-Models of mammalian development