Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte studies how genes and molecules orchestrate the development of an embryo. The questions addressed by the laboratory include: How does one cell give rise to millions of cells, and how do they come to be organized into complete structures such as limbs, a heart or brain? How stems cells differentiate and give rise to over 200 cell types that constitute the human body? How certain animals are able to regenerate their tissues and organs, i.e., what are the genetic pathways responsible for epimorphic regeneration, a complex biological process by which animals can regenerate tissues and even entire organs throughout their lifetime after injury or amputation?
The Izpisúa Belmonte laboratory utilizes different in vivo (mouse, chick, frog, and axolotl) and in vitro (human and mouse stem cells) model systems, as well as in silico modeling approaches, with particular emphasis on the genetic pathways involved in heart and bone development and regeneration. Their research has helped to discover some of the molecules that instruct embryonic stem cells to give rise to specific cell types during embryo development, and how these cells interact with one another to form tissues and organs with proper morphology and function. This ensures that our body's organs develop and function correctly and, at the same time, are placed in their correct positions.
The research activities of Dr. Izpisúa Belmonte's laboratory are relevant to understanding the causes that underlie human birth defects, as well as to the future development of regenerative medicine