The first “synthetic embryo” to be created in a lab has been produced, marking a significant advancement in science and reigniting a heated ethical controversy.
A team of scientists at Israel’s Wizemann Institute of Science, led by molecular geneticist Joseph Hanna, succeeded in developing a synthetic mouse “embryo” in a lab without fertilised eggs or a uterus, potentially giving us a peek at what occurs in the early stages of human pregnancy as well.
In a piece for The Conversation, University of Melbourne stem cell researcher Megan Munsie, who was not involved in the research, said that this new embryo model was able to mimic all the elements of an early body.
Including “the support’ cells like those present in the placenta and other tissues essential to initiate and maintain a pregnancy,” in addition to “precursors of heart, blood, brain, and other organs.”
The study might have far-reaching impacts.
The embryo model, however, only survived eight days out of the 20-day mouse embryonic cycle, which is a serious flaw considering Renewal Bio’s stated purpose, which was to raise money for this study through the firm Hanna formed.
The firm wants to create artificial human stem cells in an effort to “fix” human health concerns, but this is a science that won’t be developed for decades, according to experts.
In other words, Bio Renewal intends to develop human embryos so that it can collect human tissue for transplants.
He is not the only one who has criticisms.
In response to the latest findings, James Briscoe of the Francis Crick Institute in London told The Guardian that “synthetic human embryos are not an immediate likelihood.”
The ineffectiveness of the mice’s synthetic embryos implies that adapting the discoveries to humans needs further research, he continued. In comparison to mouse embryos, we know less about human embryos, he claimed.
Although most researchers appear to think that it’s too early to start really discussing the ethics of synthetic human embryos, it’s still a breakthrough regardless of where they stand on the issue.