Smith lab

Developmental Biology Laboratory

: Making hearts from human and mouse embryonic stem cells

A developing mouse embryo.


Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality in industrialised countries.

We are interested in unravelling human heart disease by studying heart development at the molecular and cellular level. Our ultimate goal is to apply developmental principles and lessons from model organisms in human embryonic stem cells to study how the heart develops and what makes this process susceptible to perturbation.

The human heart is very different from other mammalian hearts. By combining human stem cell biology and embryology we hope to: (i) uncover new links between early mesoderm patterning and congenital heart defects; (ii) provide insights into cardiac stem cell proliferation; and (iii) aid the generation of sufficient cardiac cells for use in drug trials and in stem cell-based therapies.



Making hearts diagram.

Figure 1: Upper panel: diagram depicting the development of the mouse heart. Cells, which give rise to the heart, are in green. Bottom panel: diagram depicting the differentiation steps hESCs undertake to become beating cardiomyocytes.

Video of beating cardiomyocytes derived from human embryonic stem cells after 10 days of differentiation.

Selected publications