By NPR. [S]cientists have created living entities in their labs that resemble human embryos; the results of two new experiments are the most complete such “model embryos” developed to date.
The goal of the experiments is to gain important insights into early human development and find new ways to prevent birth defects and miscarriages and treat fertility problems.
But the research, which was published in two separate papers Wednesday in the journal Nature Portfolio, raises sensitive moral and ethical concerns.
“I’m sure it makes anyone who is morally serious nervous when people start creating structures in a petri dish that are this close to being early human beings,” says Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, a bioethicist at Georgetown University. (Read more from “Scientists Create Living Entities in the Lab That Closely Resemble Human Embryos” HERE)
‘First complete models’ of a human embryo made in the lab
By Nicoletta Lanese. Scientists have created hollow spheres of cells that resemble human embryos in their earliest stages of development. The artificial embryos, called “blastoids,” could allow scientists to study early human development, infertility and pregnancy loss without experimenting on actual embryos.
Two separate research groups created these model embryos using different methods, and each published their results March 17 in the journal Nature Portfolio.
One research group started with adult human skin cells, which they genetically reprogrammed to resemble embryonic cells, according to a statement. The researchers then grew these modified cells over a 3D scaffold that guided them into a spherical shape. The resulting structure closely mimicked a human blastocyst, a structure that typically contains a few hundred cells and forms roughly four days after a sperm cell fertilizes an egg and later implants in the uterine wall, Nature News reported.
The second research group began with human stem cells, including both embryonic stem cells and stem cells derived from adult skin tissue, known as “induced pluripotent stem cells,” Nature News reported. The team treated the stem cells with specific chemicals known as growth factors to coax them into the shape of a blastocyst. (Read more about the creation of fabricated human embryos HERE)