Kathy Niakan

Human Embryo and Stem Cell Laboratory

The allocation of cells to a specific lineage is regulated by the activities of key signalling pathways and developmentally regulated transcription factors. The focus of our research is to understand the influence of signalling and transcription factors on differentiation during early human development.

During preimplantation development, totipotent human zygotes undergo subsequent rounds of mitotic cell divisions leading to the divergence of pluripotent embryonic cells, which form the foetus, and extra-embryonic cells, which contribute to the placenta and yolk sac.

The central question we are addressing is what are the molecular mechanisms that regulate embryonic stem cell pluripotency and how is it disengaged during cellular differentiation? We seek to define the genetic hierarchy acting during differentiation, the influence of extracellular signalling and the extent to which these mechanisms are conserved between humans and mice. The molecular basis of these early cell lineage decisions are of fundamental biological importance and have significant clinical implications for infertility, miscarriages, developmental disorders and therapeutic application of stem cells.

For more information about the research group's HFEA licence to use the genome editing technique 'CRISPR-Cas9' in human embryos, please click here

Selected publications

Niakan, KK and Eggan, K (2013) Analysis of human embryos from zygote to blastocyst reveals distinct gene expression patterns relative to the mouse Developmental Biology 375, 54-64

Cho, LTY; Wamaitha, SE; Tsai, IJ; Artus, J; Sherwood, RI; Pedersen, RA; Hadjantonakis, A-K and Niakan, KK (2012) Conversion from mouse embryonic to extra-embryonic endoderm stem cells reveals distinct differentiation capacities of pluripotent stem cell states Development 139, 2866-2877

Niakan, KK; Ji, H; Maehr, R; Vokes, SA; Rodolfa, KT; Sherwood, RI; Yamaki, M; Dimos, JT; Chen, AE; Melton, DA; McMahon, AP and Eggan, K (2010) Sox17 promotes differentiation in mouse embryonic stem cells by directly regulating extraembryonic gene expression and indirectly antagonizing self-renewal Genes & Development 24 , 312-326

Kathy Niakan

+44 (0)20 379 61539

  • Qualifications and History
  • 2005 PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
  • 2005 Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
  • 2009 Centre for Trophoblast Research Next Generation Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK
  • 2013 Group Leader, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK
  • 2015 Group Leader, the Francis Crick Institute, London, UK