Stem Cells and Development


The aim of the UC is to provide the student with an integrated vision of Animal Developmental Biology with Stem Cell Biology.

The student should acquire deeper knowledge of the genetic, molecular and morphogenetic bases of the early stages animal development. Understand the definition and concept of embryonic stem cell in comparison to somatic cells. Present the fundamental characteristics of embryonic, adult and pathological (cancer, senescent) stem cells. The aim is to provide general knowledge and an integrated concepts in stem cell biology at the molecular biology (to explain the molecular mechanisms/signaling pathways, genetic and epigenetic regulation of genes important in these cells), cellular (chemical and physical interactions between cells that define the cellular niche and determine the fate of stem cells) and animal levels.

Display the properties, the potential and limitations of using pluripotent stem cells (embryonic or reprogrammed – such as iPS) and adult regenerative medicine.


General characterization





Responsible teacher

José António Henriques de Conde Belo


Weekly - Available soon

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





- Scott Gilbert: Developmental Biology, 10a edicao, Sinauer Associates, 2013.

- Langman's Medical Embryology, T. W. Sadler, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 12th Edition, 2013.

- Stem Cells: From Mechanisms to Technologies" - By Michal K. Stachowiak, Emmanuel S. Tzanakakis - World Scientific Publishing Co, 2012.

- Stem Cells and Cancer Stem Cells, Volume 2: Therapeutic applications in disease and injury" - by M.A. Hayat – Sringer, 2011.

- Principles of Regenerative Medicine" - By Anthony Atala, Robert Lanza, James A. Thomson, Robert Nerem – Academic press, Elsevier, 2010.


Scientific articles and other support material.


Teaching method

Half of the classes will be related with syllabus teaching, being available for students all slides used in the classes. There will also be an important component of presentation of research seminars delivered by field experts. A significant part of the teaching time will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of various scientific articles, provided by the teachers. The presentations of papers will be performed by the students.

Evaluation method


The evaluation will be done through group presentation / discussion of papers (75% of grade) and the individual presentation of one paper (25% of grade).

Subject matter


Basic concepts in Developmental Biology;

Gene expression, Cell differentiation and body patterning;

Establishment of asymmetries during development.



Regulation of cell polarization, cell adhesion and migration;

Tissue morphogenesis and organogenesis;

Wound healing and tissue regeneration;

Homeostasis and Aging.


Embryonic stem cells

Isolation, culture, characterisation, and Safety, as well as Ethical Issues;

Stem Cell Biology. Stemness and pluripotency;

Differentiation strategies;

Animal models of disease.


Adult stem cells

Mesenchymal, hematopoietic, fat-derived, umbilical cord stem cells;

Characteristics, plasticity and mechanisms of action (replacement, paracrine factor secretion, cell fusion);

Therapeutic applications;

Tissue-specific stem cells: Neural, muscle, pancreas, skin;

Identification and isolation. Importance of the niche;

Applications in animal models of disease.


iPSC and transdifferentiated cells

Reprogramming principles, methods limitations and advantages over ESC and future improvements;

Directed reprogramming (transdifferentiation) of somatic cells into cells with different functions.



Programs where the course is taught: