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Scientists Synthesize Human Embryo Model Using Stem Cells without Sperm and Eggs
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Global First! Scientists Synthesize Human Embryo Model Using Stem Cells without Sperm and Eggs.
Recently, a research team from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology announced the successful creation of the world’s first artificially synthesized human embryo model using stem cells, without the use of sperm and eggs. This model resembles the earliest stage of human embryonic development.
This breakthrough progress is undoubtedly significant and may soon provide new insights into miscarriages and genetic diseases.
Although this research is of great significance, it has not been published in a formal scientific journal yet, not even as a preprint. Furthermore, synthetic embryos are currently not protected by laws in most countries and regions worldwide, and they may raise serious ethical and legal concerns.
Some scientists who were not involved in this research expressed concerns about this technology, with some even describing it as “chilling.”
Researchers created the human embryo model by reprogramming stem cells
Professor Magdalena Żernicka-Goetz from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology presented this research at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research held in Boston on Wednesday, June 14. Żernicka-Goetz announced, “We can now create models that are similar to human embryos by reprogramming embryonic stem cells.”
Scientists pointed out that these model embryos resemble the early stages of human development and provide an important window for studying the impact of genetic diseases and the biological reasons for recurrent miscarriages.
It is important to note that these embryo structures do not have a beating heart or the rudiments of a brain, but they contain cells that would typically form the placenta, yolk sac, and the embryo itself.
The latest research details from Professor Żernicka-Goetz’s team have not been published in a journal paper yet. However, during her presentation at the conference on Wednesday, she described cultivating embryos to “stages that correspond to 14 days or more of natural embryo development.”
Professor Żernicka-Goetz explained that each model structure was grown from a single embryonic stem cell and reached the milestone known as “gastrulation,” where the embryo transitions from a continuous sheet of cells to forming distinct cell lineages and developing the basic body axis. At this stage, the embryo does not have a heart, intestines, or a brain, but the models displayed the presence of primordial cells, the precursors to eggs and sperm.
According to The Guardian, currently, there is no prospect of using synthetic embryos for clinical purposes, and it is also illegal to implant these embryos into a woman’s uterus.
Additionally, it is still unclear whether these structures could continue developing beyond the initial stages of development.
The motivation behind this research is to allow scientists to understand the “black box” period of human embryonic development.
Scientists are only permitted to culture embryos in the laboratory for a maximum of 14 days. Afterward, they gain further insights into the process of embryonic development through observing prenatal scans.
Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, stated, “The purpose of this research is that if scientists can genuinely simulate normal human embryonic development using stem cells, then we could obtain a wealth of information about how we start to develop and what can go wrong, without using early embryos for research.”
The report in the Daily Economic News noted that Professor Żernicka-Goetz’s team previously made a groundbreaking announcement in August 2022, publishing in Nature that they successfully cultivated synthetic mouse embryos with fully formed brain structures and a beating heart. Since then, a race to replicate the early stages of human embryo development
According to The Guardian report, the latest research findings from Professor Żernicka-Goetz’s team highlight that the pace of development in this field has outpaced the law. Scientists in the UK and elsewhere have already begun drafting voluntary guidelines to govern research on synthetic embryos.
Professor James Briscoe from the Francis Crick Institute stated that researchers in this field should proceed with caution and conduct their research in a transparent manner.
The danger lies in the fact that mistakes or unreasonable claims could create a chilling effect on the public and policymakers, which would be a significant setback for the field.
At the same time, Professor Briscoe emphasized the “serious ethical and legal issues” that arise from this research. He stated, “Unlike human embryos produced through in vitro fertilization (IVF), which have an established legal framework, there are currently no explicit regulations governing human embryo models derived from stem cells.
Therefore, there is an urgent need for regulations to provide a framework for the creation and use of human embryo models from stem cells.” Artificial human embryos are cultivated from embryonic stem cells, which are a special type of human cell capable of developing into different cell types, ranging from muscle cells to brain cells.
Professor Briscoe also noted that since this research has not been published in a scientific journal or even on a preprint, it is “not possible to comment in detail on the scientific significance of this research.” He added, “Although it is still in the early stages, synthetic models of human embryos based on stem cells have great potential, as they can provide fundamental insights into human development.”
(source:internet, reference only)