The heart is the first organ to form and function during mammalian embryogenesis. It is composed of not only cardiomyocytes but also a variety of other cell types essential to its function. We do not understand how the diversity of cell types that make up the heart arise, or precisely which cell types give rise to others during the course of differentiation. We have been using a variety of single cell (transcriptomic, imaging) and molecular genetic (lineage labelling) approaches to understand how the mammalian heart develops. This has led to the recent identification of a distinct subpopulation of cells that represents the earliest known progenitor of the epicardium, the outermost layer of the heart. In my talk, I will present ongoing work from our group to define the precise molecular identity of the progenitor cells involved in the earliest stages of mouse and human cardiogenesis.
Shankar Srinivas is Professor of Developmental Biology and a Wellcome Senior Investigator in the Department of Physiology Anatomy & Genetics. Shankar completed a BSc in Nizam College in Hyderabad, India, then joined the group of Frank Costantini in Columbia University, New York, where he received a PhD for work on the molecular genetics of kidney development. Following this, he moved to the NIMR in Mill Hill, London, where he worked as a HFSPO fellow in the groups of Rosa Beddington and Jim Smith on how the anterior-posterior axis is established. Here, he pioneered the use of time-lapse microscopy to study early post-implantation mouse embryos. Since establishing his independent group at the University of Oxford in 2004, Shankar has been using mouse and human embryos as models to study the control of patterning and morphogenesis during the formation of the anterior-posterior axis, gastrulation and early cardiogenesis.