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Models of Development and Disease

Exploring the principles of human embryonic development, using in vitro stem-cell-based models and systems biology approaches


We study human embryonic development using stem cell-based embryo-like models, so that we can better understand both development and disease. 

The development of the embryo starts from a few cells that divide and differentiate, eventually forming all the cell types of your body. It is important that the cells do this in a coordinated way, making the right decisions in the right place and at the right time. Because of ethical and technical limitations, we cannot study the human embryo at these stages of development, so we know very little about the dynamics of this process in humans.

Our approach is to use human pluripotent stem cells that we grow under defined conditions to create structures that mirror some of the features of early embryos. Using these models, we can examine how different cell types emerge and are coordinated into the organisation of the mammalian body plan.

Alongside these embryo-like models, we use advanced microscopy, molecular and transcriptomics techniques and systems biology approaches, aiming to address fundamental questions of developmental biology. This allows us to gain an insight into human-specific aspects of development, and to establish new disease models to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying birth defects.  

To find out more, check out some of our projects below, or take a look at our Institute Webpage.


Human Gastruloids


Advanced stem cell-based embryo models

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Germ Cell Biology

Petri Dish

Patient-relevant stem cell models

Contact Us

Francis Crick Institute

1 Midland Rd

Somers Town

London NW1 1AT

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