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Monday, November 27, 2023

Synthetic human embryos created in groundbreaking advance

Hannah Devlin
The Guardian
Originally posted 14 JUNE 23

Here is an excerpt:

“Our human model is the first three-lineage human embryo model that specifies amnion and germ cells, precursor cells of egg and sperm,” ┼╗ernicka-Goetz told the Guardian before the talk. “It’s beautiful and created entirely from embryonic stem cells.”

The development highlights how rapidly the science in this field has outpaced the law, and scientists in the UK and elsewhere are already moving to draw up voluntary guidelines to govern work on synthetic embryos. “If the whole intention is that these models are very much like normal embryos, then in a way they should be treated the same,” Lovell-Badge said. “Currently in legislation they’re not. People are worried about this.”

There is also a significant unanswered question on whether these structures, in theory, have the potential to grow into a living creature. The synthetic embryos grown from mouse cells were reported to appear almost identical to natural embryos. But when they were implanted into the wombs of female mice, they did not develop into live animals. In April, researchers in China created synthetic embryos from monkey cells and implanted them into the wombs of adult monkeys, a few of which showed the initial signs of pregnancy but none of which continued to develop beyond a few days. Scientists say it is not clear whether the barrier to more advanced development is merely technical or has a more fundamental biological cause.


Here is my summary:

Researchers used stem cells to create structures that resembled early-stage human embryos, with a beating heart and primitive brain-like structures.

The synthetic embryos could be used to study human development and to develop new treatments for infertility and miscarriage. However, the research also raises ethical concerns, as it is not clear whether the synthetic embryos should be considered the same as natural embryos.

Some bioethicists have argued that the synthetic embryos should be treated with the same respect as natural embryos, as they have the potential to develop into human beings. Others have argued that the synthetic embryos are not the same as natural embryos, as they were not created through the union of an egg and sperm.

The research has been welcomed by some scientists, who believe it has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of human development. However, other scientists have expressed concern about the ethical implications of the research.