A cell in hand is worth two in the embryo

Generating cells for repair is a key endeavour towards cell replacement. Early embryonic cells are the cells, which have the largest potential in our bodies. Understanding how these so-called ‘totipotent’ cells function can enable major findings to manipulate cellular plasticity. In a review article published recently in Current Opinion in Genetics & Development, Dr. Ane Iturbide and Prof. Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla from the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells at the Helmholtz Zentrum München summarised and discussed the pathways and molecules that are implicated in cellular reprogramming to totipotency in culture.

@Iturbide et al. 2020, Curr Op in Gen and Dev; 2-cell-like cells arise spontaneously in a culture of pluripotent embryonic stem cells.

One of the most fascinating aspect of live is that multicellular organisms arise from a single cell, the zygote. This capacity is known as totipotency and is found only in a short period during early embryonic development. Understanding how these totipotent cells function is very important for regenerative medicine and disease, because it can provide unique paradigms to generate multiple cell types. However, such studies have primarily required the use of a mammalian embryo. Thus, the establishment of a cellular model to study totipotency has been of enormous research interest over the past years. In the mouse model, only the zygote and each of the two blastomeres of the 2-cell stage embryo are truly totipotent. In 2012, 2-cell-like cells have been identified in a culture of pluripotent mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). 2-cell-like cells 2CLCs open up the possibility to study very early developmental events during mammalian embryogenesis and their very early developmental potential could be very important for medical applications. In their article, Dr. Ana Iturbide and Prof. Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla, the Director of the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells, revised the advances in the 2CLCs research field highlighting the molecular players that are involved in 2CLCs reprogramming.

To read the full article, go here.