First Self-Developing Embryo Created From Stem Cells
A team of experts from the University of Cambridge used two types of stem cells and a 3D scaffold to create a structure closely resembling a natural mouse embryo. The scientists were able to develop the artificial embryos for seven days, which was one-third of the way through mouse pregnancy. There was limited success in previous attempts as early embryo development required different cells to coordinate with each other.
The researchers wish to perfect their work in order to help improve fertility treatments. They also aim to provide useful insights into the way early embryos develop. Limited experimentaion on human embryos as strictly regulated and banned after 14 days according to BBC.
Prof Magdalena Zenricka Goetz, lead researcher from Cambridge said that they knew that interactions between those different types of stem cell were important for development. But the striking thing that their new work illustrated is that it is a real partnership - the cells truly guide each other.
Once the mammalian egg has been fertilized, it divides to generate embryonic stem cells, which is the body's master cell. These embryonic stem cells cluster together inside the embryo towards one end and forms the rudimentary embryonic structure called a blastocyst.
The study was published in the journal Science. Researchers created their artificial embryo using the embryonic stem cells and an extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cell, which forms the placenta.
They said their artificial embryo is unlikely to develop into a healthy fetus as it would most probably need the third form of stem cell, which develops into the yolk sac that provides nutrition. They had recently developed a technique that allowed blastocysts to develop in the lab up to the legal limit of 14 days.
They have gone as far as growing these artificial mice embryos to the equivalent stage. They are now working developing an artificial human embryo by using the same technique according to The Guardian. If they become successful, it could open the door to experimenting on embryos beyond the 14-day limit.