Israeli scientists create model of human embryo without eggs or sperm – DNyuz

Israeli scientists create model of human embryo without eggs or sperm


REHOVOT, Israel, Sept 7 – Scientists in Israel have created a model of a human embryo from stem cells in the laboratory, without using sperm, eggs or a womb, offering a unique glimpse into the early stages of embryonic development.

The model resembles an embryo at day 14, when it acquires internal structures but before it lays down the foundations for body organs, according to the team at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

The scientists’ work has been published on Nature’s website after a preliminary version was released in June at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Boston.

The Israeli team emphasised that they were a long way from being able to create an embryo from scratch.

“The real question is when an embryo becomes an embryo. We know when that will happen. At the moment we are really, really far off from that point,” said team leader Jacob Hanna.

However, they said the work could open the door to new ways to test the effect of drugs on pregnancies, better understand miscarriages and genetic diseases, and perhaps even to grow transplant tissues and organs.

“They are not identical. Hanna said that there are some differences between human embryos and the cells in the atlas. “But, I’m able to see the similarities,” he added.

Hanna said that his team had taken stem cells from human adult skin cells and other cells cultured in a lab. They then returned the cells to ‘an early state, with the ability to develop into various cell types.

They then manipulated them to form the basis of something structurally resembling an embryo. The ISSCR, and many other scientists have criticised the term “synthetic embryo” for its incorrect use. It’s a model that shows how an embryo works.

“In about 1 percent of the aggregates we can see that the cells start differentiating correctly, migrating and sorting themselves into the correct structure, and the farthest we could get is day 14 in human embryo development,” he said.

Their next goal, Hanna said, is to advance to day 21 and also reach a threshold of a 50% success rate.

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a professor of development and stem cells at the University of Cambridge, said the study joins six other similar human embryo-like models published from teams around the world this year, including from her lab.

“None of these models fully recapitulate natural human development but each adds to ways in which many aspects of human development can now be studied experimentally,” she said.

Hanna and other researchers noted that the study raised some ethical concerns about future potential manipulations of human embryonic development. He drew a comparison to nuclear physics, however, arguing that you should not stop all research in that field because somebody might choose to make a nuclear bomb.

He said that it is vital to fully engage the public and inform them, adding “nothing should be done behind closed doors”.

Reporting by Rami Amichay and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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