Scientists have taken a major step towards creating synthetic (artificial) embryo-like structures that resemble real human embryos, with many of the key characteristics of the earliest stages of life. In a new study, researchers from the Weizmann Institute in Israel have succeeded in developing the most complete embryo ever produced, building on a recent study using human embryonic stem cells.
"This is a landmark study that seeks new avenues for human development research,” Professor Alfonso Martinez Arias said from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain.
On the other hand, the scientists also explain what they aim to achieve with human embryos developed in the laboratory. The aim of the research is not to create artificial life but to learn more about the development of embryos.
Dr. James Briscoe, an academic at the Francis Crick Institute in London, said the research was "a step towards opening a window into a period of human development where many pregnancies fail and which has been really difficult to study until now".
In the study, the researchers used stem cells from donated human embryos, which were then "stimulated" with chemicals to develop into the four basic cell types of the early embryo that make up all the tissues and organs of a fully developed human being.
Similar embryos had been produced in previous experiments, but they lacked the same number of tissue types and level of organization as found in real embryos. Most importantly, they lacked “extraembryonic” tissues, such as the cells that make up the placenta.
“The placenta and its insertion into the lining of the uterus is one of the major causes of failed pregnancies and therefore an important area of research. The artificial embryos created by the researchers produced these extra-embryonic cell types,” Professor Aris said.
“The 14th day is an important day for both human development and the ethics of such research. After 14 days of development, all the main tissue types that make up the blueprint of the human body are formed. This is also the date on which the 'rights' given to embryos by law in most countries begin, and research on human embryos is prohibited in many countries after this point,” he added.
Source: Anadolu Agency