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A team of scientists from the University of Cambridge succeeded in creating an artificial structure that resembles a mouse embryo. To create it, they used a 3D scaffold and two stem cell types. This research can help them better understand the first stages of mammalian development.
On Thursday, the team published their study in the Science journal. They revealed that their embryo is indeed similar to the real embryo in many aspects, the chances that it should develop into a healthy individual are quite small.
In the research, the researchers showed how the artificial embryo follows the same steps that a natural embryo follows in its development. Also, the stem cells organize in the same way in both embryos.
Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, the leader of the study and a professor of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, declared that the fact that they had such a great success with mouse embryos should bring them closer to a similar work involving human cells.
Such work should help scientists solve the problem that they often encounter when working with human cells, namely the small number of embryos available for research.
At the moment, scientists obtain human embryos for research from the extra eggs remained in fertility clinics, but Zernicka-Goetz is optimistic that they will soon be able to use stem cells and the 3D scaffold technique to produce artificial human embryos for research.
Thus, they will be able to analyze the main events that occur during this critical period in human development without actually having to use real embryos for study. Also, if they come to understand how the initial stages of development go, they will be able to find out why they sometimes go wrong.
Previous attempts to create artificial human embryos failed, but the Cambridge researchers suspect that this happened because those scientists used only embryonic stem cells. These stages of development need more types of cells to work, so the resources might have been insufficient to create a proper embryo.
Besides embryonic stem cells, the Cambridge researchers also used extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells. These cells can work together and organize into a structure that perfectly resembles an embryo.
Many other experts in the field praise this method and are sure that this is the best way to achieve human-like embryos for research.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons