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Without an Egg, Sperm or Womb, Scientists Create Synthetic Embryos in World First

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have created synthetic embryos outside of the womb by starting just with stem cells that have been cultivated in a dish. The procedure opens up new avenues for research into how stem cells develop into different organs in the growing embryo. It might enable the use of synthetic embryo models to produce tissues and organs for transplantation.

Synthetic Embryos

For the first time ever, scientists were able to create an embryo without using fertilized eggs, which could pave the way for the future growth of organs and tissues.

By beginning only with stem cells maintained in a Petri dish, Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have generated synthetic embryo models of mice outside the womb.

The work, which was released this week in the journal Cell, has expanded the field of research into how stem cells evolve into various organs throughout embryonic development.

Using synthetic embryo models, this technique may one day enable the growth of tissues and organs for donation.

We attempted to mimic what the embryo accomplishes since it is the best organ-producing machine and the best 3D bio-printer, according to senior scientist Jacob Hanna of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s molecular genetics division.

The research team’s leader, Dr. Hanna, claimed that it was already possible to return mature cells to their “stemness,” or capacity for self-renewal.

What are stem cells?

There are two remarkable qualities of stem cells. They can divide to produce additional, identical stem cells, but they can also produce different kinds of cells. By the way, stem cells created all of your body’s more than 100 different cell types, including the liver, heart, lung, muscle, kidney, and many others.

Going the other way, and inducing stem cells to differentiate into specialized body cells or even whole organs, had proven to be much more difficult.

Dr. Hanna stated that up until this point, the majority of studies’ specialized cells were frequently either difficult to create or abnormal, and they tended to form a jumble instead of properly formed tissue suited for transplantation.

By releasing the stem cell’s inherent capacity for self-organization, we were able to overcome these obstacles.

Dr. Hanna’s group improved upon two earlier discoveries made in his lab.

One was a powerful technique for returning stem cells to their naïve state, or to the very beginning of their development, when they had the greatest potential to specialize into various cell types.

The other was an electronically controlled apparatus that the scientists had created after seven years of trial and error to grow normal mouse embryos outside the womb. It was described in a scientific publication published in Nature in March 2021.

In addition to tightly regulating oxygen exchange and air pressure, the system keeps the embryos soaked in a nutrient solution inside of beakers that move continually, replicating the way nutrients are given by maternal blood flow to the placenta.

The scientists had previously utilized this technique to effectively grow normal mouse embryos from day five to day eleven.

The goal of the current study was to generate a synthetic embryo model without the use of fertilized eggs, starting only from naïve mouse stem cells that had been grown for years in a Petri dish.

This strategy could, to a significant extent, avoid the technological and moral concerns associated with the use of natural embryos in research and biotechnology, which makes it incredibly important.

Ethical dilemma

Scientists predict that the generation of embryos from stem cells for research will soon bring up ethical concerns that need to be discussed right away.

The morphology of internal structures and the gene expression patterns of several cell types in the synthetic models exhibited a 95% resemblance to those in actual mouse embryos.

The organs depicted in the models appeared to be fully functional.

The study opens up a brand-new field of study for Dr. Hanna and other experts in stem cells and embryonic development.

Our next task is to comprehend how stem cells know what to do, how they self-organize into organs, and how they locate their designated locations inside an embryo, according to Dr. Hanna.

And since our technology is transparent, unlike a womb, it might be effective for simulating birth and implantation abnormalities in human embryos.

Synthetic embryo models may eventually replace animal studies on animals as a trustworthy source of cells, tissues, and organs for transplantation.

What is artificial embryos?

Hollow spheres made of cells that resemble developing human foetuses have been made by scientists. Blastoid artificial embryos could enable researchers to examine early human development, infertility, and pregnancy loss without using real embryos in their experiments.

Conclusion

Starting with stem cells that have been raised in a Petri dish, scientists have produced synthetic embryos outside of the womb. Researchers think the development could open up new directions for medical study and pave the way for the production of tissues and organs for transplantation using synthetic embryo models.

Without using fertilized eggs, stem cells, or ovaries, a team of researchers at the University of Bristol has created a novel technique for creating synthetic embryo models for use in biotechnology and research. A scientific article that appeared in Nature in March 2021 describes the work. Scientists might use the technique to study early human development without having to use actual embryos.

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