Scientists Have Created Synthetic Human Embryos

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology have created artificial human embryos using stem cells without using eggs or sperm. 

Jacob Hanna from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and Magdalena Żernicka-Goetz, a professor at Cambridge, have developed mouse embryo models using stem cells. These models were grown in nutrient-filled bottles, which acted as a basic artificial uterus. The monster creations developed a spinal column, nascent head, and primitive beating heart.

Researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, led by Zhen Lu in Shanghai, synthesized embryos using embryonic stem cells from primates and impregnated the monkeys through a process similar to in vitro fertilization. 

Żernicka-Goetz and Hanna tried experimenting with the world’s leading primate instead of leaving rodents to redo Lu’s monkey experiment.

Cambridge professors Magdalena Żernicka-Goetz and Jacob Hanna have discovered a way to create human embryo-like models by reprogramming cells. The researchers grew human embryos for longer than 14 days until they reached gastrulation, where the cells began to differentiate and form the basic body structure. 

According to the MIT Technology Review, Janet Rossant, a developmental biologist and member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research steering committee, stated that synthetic embryos could potentially develop into viable humans if they have all the necessary cell types. She emphasized that the embryo models are not actual human embryos. They offer a promising approach to understanding the reasons behind the high pregnancy loss rate when we create these structures resembling embryos.

It is against the law to implant these embryos into a woman’s womb. However, scientists have more flexibility when working with stem cell-derived embryos compared to embryos resulting from fertilization between sperm and egg. The creation and use of stem cell-derived models of human embryos lack clear regulations, a pressing issue requiring immediate attention.

The 2021 guidance of the International Society for Stem Cell Research suggests that national academies of science, academic societies, funders, and regulators should consider extending the allowed culture time. The development of embryoids, which are living beings created from human stem cells and are becoming more intricate and similar to human embryos, has created a need to expand the regulation so that researchers can compare these novel entities with naturally formed embryos.