MCB and SCRB faculty Sharad Ramanathan and his research on embryonic development have been featured in the January-February issue of Harvard Magazine. The story, penned by Harvard Magazine managing editor Jonathan Shaw, highlights how the Ramanathan Lab is overcoming technical obstacles to replicating embryonic development in vitro.
“This journey from cells to whole animals is the wondrous enigma at the heart of developmental biology,” Shaw writes. “In principle, the process seems radically simple: just a handful of biochemical signaling families are the master regulators. But in practice, the many steps are astonishingly complex. The location, intensity, and timing of those developmental signals follow a choreography so intricate that it has been nearly impossible to recapitulate in the lab. In fact, scientists have spent years perfecting the recipe for directing a stem cell to become a specific cell type. Spurring the effort is its potential payoff: for example, painstaking work across more than a decade eventually induced stem cells to divide and differentiate into pancreatic beta cells, which secrete insulin. Those cells are being used experimentally to treat diabetes.”