Associate Professor Jianping Fu's research on the development of human embryo-like structures has been featured in Nature.
"Much research on early human development has focused on the embryo itself, but many other tissues are crucial to its survival. These include the amniotic sac, which houses the embryo, and the placenta, which provides oxygen and nutrients.
To better study how the amniotic sac develops, researchers created a model using human stem cells. Last year, developmental biologist Deborah Gumucio and bioengineer Jianping Fu at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and their colleagues showed that when they grew human stem cells on a gel bed and surrounded them with natural scaffold molecules, the cells self-organized into a clump resembling the amniotic sac. After about 24 hours, a hole opened up and, subsequently, cells began to flatten on one side and elongate on the other, characteristic of the process leading up to gastrulation."