Assistant Professor Fredrik Lanner and his research team are exploring ways in which pluripotent stem cells are regulated in the human embryo. Their work establishes fundamental knowledge that is valuable in the regenerative medicine field. One of the team’s lines of research addresses how to use embryonic stem cells for age-related macular degeneration treatment.

During the first week of fertilization, the embryo grows from a single cell into a blastocyst, a hollow cluster of a few hundred cells. The blastocyst then attaches itself to the uterine wall (implantation). For a limited period from fertilization to a few days after implantation, the embryo contains pluripotent stem cells. These cells can develop into any type of cell in the human body; consequently, they are of considerable interest for regenerative and reparative medicine.

To explore early human development and pluripotency, the Lanner lab recently published a single-cell transcriptional roadmap of human preimplantation development. The lab currently explores the potential of human-embryo genome editing in fundamental research – specifically to elucidate which of these genes are important for early human development and pluripotent stem cells. Such knowledge could be important for reparative medicine and for understanding causes of infertility.

To use embryonic stem cells in reparative medicine, cell culturing must comply with the good manufacturing practice (GMP) standard. For this purpose, the lab initiated work to establish new embryonic stem cell lines within a GMP facility.

“We hope that these cells will be a valuable resource that will allow many research teams to make the move from bench to bedside within reparative medicine,” says Lanner.

His lab also developed a method for generating retinal cells from embryonic stem cells. The goal is to use these retinal cells in clinical trials that address age-related macular degeneration – the major cause of blindness in the elderly population.

Fredrik Lanner undertook his PhD thesis at the department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet, followed by postdoctoral research in Janet Rossant’s lab at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. Having returned to Karolinska Institutet, he established his independent research lab at the Department for Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology.

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Fredrik Lanner