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In an achievement never done before, scientists have grown an embryo model resembling a human embryo without using sperm, eggs or a womb.
Scientists called the creation an “entity,” according to the Weizmann Institute of Science.
The goal of the study isn’t to play God, but rather to understand why certain birth defects and miscarriages occur during the embryotic stage of pregnancy.
“It’s a black box and that’s not a cliche – our knowledge is very limited,” Prof Jacob Hanna, from the Weizmann Institute of Science, told the BBC’s James Gallagher in a report published Wednesday.
Embyro model looks human: Don’t worry it’s legal
The study used stem cells which were reprogrammed to become any type of tissue the researchers needed. The study, performed by an Israeli team that called it the first “complete” embryo model, was published in the science journal Nature.
Performing studies on embryos remains filled with controversy, but a new field has emerged in which scientists mimic the production and growth of a human embryo.
The embryos were only allowed to grow for 14 days, the legal cut off for this type of research in most countries. Using chemicals, the scientists turned them into four specific types of cells found in the early stages of the human embryo.
Embryo study “opens the door” for more answers
Only 1% of the mixture was successful in transforming into something that resembles a human embryo, but scientists say the 99% failure rate will need to improve before they can effectively understand the reason behind miscarriages and birth defects at this early stage of life.
“The work has, for the first time, achieved a faithful construction of the complete structure [of a human embryo] from stem cells” in the lab, “thus opening the door for studies of the events that lead to the formation of the human body plan,” Prof Alfonso Martinez Arias at Pompeu Fabra University told the BBC.
While the news may shock some people, scientists say it would be impossible to turn an embryo model into an actual human being.