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Cambridge Reproduction


Qiulin is a PhD student supervised by Professor Kathy Niakan. He is interested in understanding the molecular level regulation during human epiblast transition.

Epiblast emerges in the pre-implantation human embryo at around 6 days post-fertilization. It gives rise to all the germ layers and eventually contributes to all the somatic cells consisting of the human body. As development proceeds from pre- to post-implantation, epiblast cells undergo changes in their morphology, transcriptome, epigenome and energy metabolism. How the human epiblast cells transit during pre- to post-implantation development is largely unknown. Qiulin hypothesizes that the human epiblast transition follows a continuum of pluripotency as transcription factor (TF) networks are dynamically rewiring during this process. His project investigates the role of TFs that were predicted to have an important function during the transition of human epiblast cells using in vitro stem cell models that are tractable to genetic manipulation. Loss-of-function experiments will be carried out to test the role of these TFs in an in vitro capacitation model and using stem cell models of human embryos called blastoids. Multi-omics analysis will be used to understand the consequence of the loss of the predicted TFs and to construct their dynamic networks. In all, Qiulin’s project will help to define the role of putative epiblast regulators during an important transition in early development which can be subsequently tested in vivo. By integrating network modelling approaches at the start and throughout the project the functional test of the predictions will also inform and improve future TF network modelling strategies.

Qiulin Huang