The study recently published in the journal Nature—titled Hybrid human–chicken embryos illuminate key developmental milestone—describes the revolutionary breakthrough as “A new technique reveals the earliest stages of human development without the need for human embryos.”
A group of stem cell scientists has made an unprecedented accomplishment as they have successfully combined artificial human cells with the embryo of chickens, in a shocking scientific experiment that aims to understand better how life develops.
Scientists had never before been able to understand and answer how specific cells in a developing human embryo arrange themselves to become muscles or libs, while others become bones and nerves.
However, everything has changed with a new experiment performed by researchers from the Rockefeller University in New York.
A group of scientists led by Dr. Ali Brivanlou has achieved the unthinkable by grafting petri dish grown human cells onto a chicken embryo and observed how cells could organize themselves.
In the study published in Nature, researchers from Rockefeller university unveiled the inner machinations of so-called ‘organizer cells.’ These cells are believed to play a crucial role in the formational of a cells top, bottom, and back, and are thought to dictate how the human body takes shape.
Speaking about the discovery, Dr. Brivanlou said: “No one knew what happens after the ball of cells attaches itself to the uterus.”
Putting an end to the use of human embryos in laboratories
The new, revolutionary study aims to bypass ethical issues surrounding the use of human embryos in laboratory experiments. Countries like the United States, for example, have banned the use of human embryos which are more than 14 days old, which is precisely when organizer cells begin to form.
The new study saw experts bypass the rule by growing embryo-like structures derived from human embryonic cells in the lab.
The next phase saw scientists graft the cells onto 12-hour-old chicken embryos which are considered to be the equivalent of a 14-day human.
In the new study scientists said that the as the chicken embryos grew, organizer cells began the formation of a second chicken nervous system.
In other words, it is a revolutionary discovery in medicine, one that is welcomed by researchers around the globe.
Dr. Martin Blum, a biologist at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, said that the discovery could put an end to the use of actual human embryos in laboratories.
At the moment I could not think of a case where an early human embryo would be needed to answer fundamental questions.”
However, Dr. Brivanlou disagrees with Dr. Blum.
There is no substitute for studying the real embryo,” Dr. Brivanlou has said.
“Everything else we do when we try to model kind of oversimplifies it.”
Martin Pera, a stem-cell researcher at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, is impressed with the study.
There’s quite a lot there that this system will lead to,” he says — including a better understanding of defects in the early development of human embryos that can lead to miscarriages, and the ability to compare the embryo-like structures with human stem-cell cultures to better define stem cells’ abilities, reports the study in Nature.
The next step, say, researchers, is to determine how exactly the human organizer cells influence their neighbors.
This breakthrough could help scientists understand how to manipulate human stem cells into specific tissues or structures, as part of therapies to regenerate organs and tissues.
“Human embryonic stem cells and eggs have all the information,” Brivanlou says. “Everything else is pushing the first domino.”