Our Research

Our group is interested in how cells build embryos. We approach this question by asking cells, specifically Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) how much can they do on their own. We work with mammalian ESCs because over the last decade advances in our ability to grow them and differentiate them in dishes and wells have opened up exciting experimental possibilities that we are exploiting. In these endeavours, we don’t forget the embryo which is, perhaps not the teacher that Viktor Hamburger anointed it as in his famous sentence, but a reference for our work.

A few years ago, we saw that under defined culture conditions mouse ESCs could be coaxed into 3D aggregates that would form structures with a good representation of the vertebrate body plan. We called these structures ‘gastruloids’ because what they create mirrors the outcome of gastrulation.

You can find more information about gastruloids and what we are doing with them in these pages.

Latest Posts

These are difficult times. COVID-19 is changing the way we live and, for now — and maybe for the future — the way we work. The loss of life and the effect on the economy and society is a matter for reflection. Importantly, this disease has highlighted the central role that Science plays in our Society and the need to support and expand its base because Science does two things, deals with uncertainty and prepares for the unexpected by exploring what might not seem urgent today but will be key for the future. Furthermore, the enormous international efforts being done at the moment also highlight that Science is global and this, we suspect, will remain as such.

Notes on Human Embryos

II. The 14-day rule and its implications The 14-day rule is an important landmark in the study of the development of human embryos. Established as part of the conclusions of the Warnock committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1), later enshrined into British law by an act of Parliament in 1990, it demarcates a line that cannot be crossed when growing human embryos ex vivo and has served as the reference for work with human embryos since. At […]

Continue Reading

Recent Publications

Moris, N., Anlas, K., van den Brink, S.C., et al. An in vitro model of early anteroposterior organization during human development. Nature (2020).

van den Brink, S.C., Alemany, A., van Batenburg, V. et al. Single-cell and spatial transcriptomics reveal somitogenesis in gastruloids. Nature (2020).

Beccari, L., Moris, N., Girgin, M. et al. Multi-axial self-organization properties of mouse embryonic stem cells into gastruloids. Nature (2018).


Dr Ben Steventon (Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, UK).

Professor Alexander van Oudenaarden (Hubrecht Institute, Utrecht, The Netherlands).

Professor Matthias Lütolf (EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland).

Professor Kat Hadjantonakis (Sloan Kettering, New York, USA).