skip to content
Incubator Fund project: Jowett 2022

Creative conception: a microfluidics-enabled strategy for in vitro gametogenesis (IVG)

Project leads: Dr Geraldine Jowett (Gurdon Institute), Dr Timo Kohler (Biochemistry) and Dr João Alves Lopes (Karolinska Institute)

Funding round: 2021–2022

Funding awarded: £4,800

Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are the embryonic precursors of sperm and eggs. These bipotential cells commit to either male or female gamete fate upon reaching the gonad, a choice that is predominantly regulated by the sex of the surrounding gonadal tissue: XX chromosomes drive ovary and thus egg cell fate, and the presence of a Y‑chromosome diverts this process toward testicular maturation, resulting in sperm development. Recapitulating this cell fate decision has represented a critical bottleneck to our understanding of developmental infertility and for in vitro gametogenesis approaches.

This Cambridge Reproduction incubator fund will enable a new interdisciplinary venture to tackle this challenge. These funds will be used to pilot a system based on the microfluidic encapsulation of germ cells in chemically‑defined, biomimetic spherical microgels, offering an exciting avenue for recapitulating the differential cues provided by the developing ovaries and testes. Exploring this high‑throughput approach will offer insights into a translationally impactful system to interrogate and induce late embryonic gamete maturation.


Geraldine Jowett is a Schmidt Science Fellow in the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, researching the mammalian germ cell commitment, with a specific focus on the transition from bipotential germ cells to committed gametes. 





Timo Nicolas Kohler is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Biochemistry, where he has established a microfluidic encapsulation system to study the effects of microenvironmental parameters (e.g. volumetric confinement) on pluripotency in stem cells and during early embryonic development.





João Alves Lopes is a senior postdoctoral research fellow in NORDFERTIL research lab Stockholm, at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, where he focuses on human primordial germ cell specification and their early development during migration and gonadal colonization.