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Cambridge Reproduction


I am a first year PhD student co-supervised by John Marioni at EMBL-EBI and Roser Vento-Tormo at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. As I am still in the process of defining what my PhD project will focus on, I will summarise my research experience so far in the Vento lab, where I did my master’s thesis and worked as a bioinformatician.

During my year at the Wellcome Sanger Institute as a bioinformatician, I made use of single-cell genomics technologies to study ovarian development in humans. Ovaries are the primary female reproductive organs and lie on either side of the uterus. They are responsible for the production of the female gametes in preparation for fertilization and secrete the sex steroid hormones progesterone and oestrogen. Ovarian development during embryonic and fetal life is a complex and tightly regulated process. Alterations in ovarian development are thought to underlay several disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome and infertility. Studying the development of the ovaries is therefore critical for our understanding of their physiology and pathology, and will also establish the foundations to generate artificial gametes, with important applications for clinical and basic research.

Single-cell genomics technologies have taken our understanding of human biology to an unprecedented level of resolution. By profiling the genome and its products - including chromatin architecture, RNA transcripts, and proteins - of individual cells researchers are able to obtain a systematic characterization of all the cells in a given tissue or organ. This is extremely valuable for the development of novel therapies that can target specific subsets of cells rather than the entire affected tissue or organ.

Applied to ovarian development, single-cell genomics technologies provide a means to study how the cellular composition of these fascinating organs changes over time. As a result, we were able to pinpoint critical periods and elucidate biological processes that shape ovarian development and that have so far been understudied due to the lack of technological resolution.