Scientists Create a Whole Human Embryo Model Without Sperm or Eggs

  • The Weizmann Institute of Science researchers created an embryo without eggs or sperm.
  • Scientists used chemicals to manipulate stem cells into becoming an embryo model.
  • The researchers want to understand more about the early formation of babies.
  • The study will help scientists learn more about the crucial stage of development when birth defects are often formed.

( – Scientists have used stem cells to make incredible advances in modern medicine. They are implanted in people to help fight off certain types of cancer, like lymphoma. They can also help replace cells that are damaged by chemotherapy. Doctors get the cells from adults or from babies’ umbilical cords.

Scientists at The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel are now using the cells to try to understand the beginnings of life. And they created something fascinating with them.

A Model Embryo

In September, the medical journal Nature published research from a group of scientists that created a human embryo without the use of sperm or eggs. Instead, the researchers used naive stem cells that they reprogrammed to make the first “complete” embryo model. The model mimics all of the key structures that are in a real human embryo when it begins to form. Chemicals were used to make four types of cells that are found in the early stages of embryonic development. Those cells are

  • Trophoblast cells, which later develop into the placenta
  • Extraembryonic mesoderm cells
  • Epiblast cells, which become the fetus
  • Hypoblast cells, which turn into the supportive yolk sac

Professor Jacob H. Hanna, one of the scientists on the study, spoke to the BBC about it. He said the team is studying this crucial stage of development because it’s considered key when it comes to birth defects and miscarriages. Despite its importance, scientists don’t know much about it. He said their “knowledge is very limited.” Hanna said what they created was a “textbook image of a human day-14 embryo.”

Hope for the Future

Scientists want to know more about how an embryo is formed so that they can learn new information about genetic diseases, birth defects, and inherited diseases. They also think they might be able to learn something that could help improve the odds when it comes to IVF. In the process, they learned that some parts of an embryo won’t form unless they are surrounded by early placenta cells.

Professor Robin Lovell Badge studies embryonic development at London’s Francis Crick Institute. He said he was “impressed” with the Israeli scientists’ study and said the embryo models “look pretty good.”

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