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Human embryo on the stage of 16 cells on background with DNA
Kateryna_Kon -

Research at the IES

Cracking up the Nucleus to Unlock a Cell's Full Potential.

Cracking up the Nucleus to Unlock a Cell's Full Potential.

We study the epigenetic mechanism that determine cell identity.

Epigenetic Reprogramming lies at the heart of the earliest stages of development, at fertilization, which enables the formation of a totipotent zygote – the one-cell embryo able to give rise to all the cells of our body. 

Our research is dedicated to exploring the fascinating field of Cellular Identity and uncovering the molecular mechanisms underlying Epigenetic Reprogramming, Cell Fate, and Cellular Memory. We aim at determining how stem cells originate in vivo and at establishing the epigenetic principles behind changes in cellular plasticity and reprogramming. Our researchers study how the transitions in cell potency and cell fate are regulated by chromatin-mediated processes using a variety of approaches including quantitative imaging, modeling, functional genomics and cell biology. Understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the maintenance and manipulation of cellular plasticity will have strong implications in regenerative medicine and disease, and will help in deciphering human reproduction and infertility.

Our Research Topics

Tracking cell fates

Remembering and forgetting the past.

How do cells in our body remember which cell types they are? How can we erase this cellular memory efficiently and safely to generate any desired cell type on demand?

Cellular Plasticity and Totipotency

Master cells – cells that can make every other type of cell.

What enables a cell to make any cell type? How can we unlock this potential?

Cellular Identity Changes

Making heads and tails of embryos.

How do cells self-organize so that they migrate together? How do they “talk” to the other cells and instruct them to adopt different fates, based on their position?

Building the Nucleus

Fitting it all in the right place, at the right time.

How do cells fit the 2 meter of our DNA in the tiny nucleus? How is the DNA packaging established at the beginning of embryonic development? 

Genome Conflicts

Accidents in the nucleus: driving at high speed.

How do cells regulate and coordinate transcription and replication on our genome? Do the protein complexes collide at certain regions of the genome?

Our Scientists

Portrait Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla

Prof. Dr. Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla

Director of the Stem Cell Center, Director of the Institute for Epigenetics and Stem Cells, Group Leader View profile

Dr. Stephan Hamperl

Group Leader
Portrait Eva Hörmanseder

Dr. Eva Hörmanseder

Group Leader

Dr. Antonio Scialdone

Group Leader
Portrait Jonathan Adam Burton

Dr. Jonathan Adam Burton

Deputy Head of Institute for Epigenetics and Stem Cells
Portrait Meghana Oak

Meghana Oak

Doctoral Researcher

Manuel Trauner

Doctoral Researcher
Portrait Gabriele Lubatti

Gabriele Lubatti

Doctoral Researcher
Portrait Ana Janeva

Ana Janeva

Doctoral Researcher

Marco Stock

Doctoral Researcher
Portrait Andreas Ettinger

Dr. Andreas Ettinger

Head of Microscopy Core
Tamas Schauer

Dr. Tamas Schauer

Senior Computational Biologist
Portrait Federico Pecori

Dr. Federico Pecori


Margarita Cespedes Barroso

Lab Manager

Dr. Antoine Canat


Dr. Tsunetoshi Nakatani

Portrait Clara Hermant

Clara Hermant

Doctoral Researcher
Portrait Yung-Li Chen

Yung-Li Chen

Doctoral Researcher
Portrait Marlies Oomen

Dr. Marlies Oomen


Dr. Maxime Lalonde

Portrait Marcel Werner

Marcel Werner

Doctoral Researcher