Genetic editing is like playing God.
A team of scientists from the University of Maastricht has developed an embryo using stem cells different from sperm and ovules and has managed to successfully transfer it to the uterus of mice. Researchers detail their study in a paper published in the journal Nature.
The researchers have managed to successfully go through the entire process for the first time ever, and hope that this work will help understand how the placenta is formed and how the embryo is implanted in the lining of the uterus.
When they are transferred in utero, the cell spheres, obtained from two types of rodent stem cell, activate adaptation mechanisms similar to those observed during implantation in the uterine wall.
While these early embryonic structures did not evolve to the state of mature embryos, they served as a model to study the development of the embryo at its inception, a stage still little understood in science.
A few days after fertilization, the mammalian ovule normally develops in a blastocyst, which corresponds to the embryo in the early stages of its development.
It becomes a spherical structure composed of a layer of outer cells (the future placenta) that surrounds a cavity filled with fluid that contains a mass of embryonic cells.
The failure of the development of the embryo would be due to the absence of a third type of cell “that has an essential role in the structuring the embryo and is poorly produced by embryonic stem cells,” says Professor Robin Lovell-Badge.
Obtaining comparable results with human cells remains a great challenge for researchers who would like to create human embryos in this way.
However, this raises a number of ethical questions, raising doubts whether we, as a society, should venture out into the unknown.
It is also noteworthy to mention that mice and humans are very different, and this raises a number of questions like; Would a human uterus respond in the same way to these blastoids?
That’s an answer scientists are still looking for. Despite this, the discoveries it yields could potentially lead to great medical improvements.
Cloning Human Beings
Professor Nicholas Rivron of the University of Maastricht, leader of the research group, thinks that a developed embryo could be created in just three more years, however, a human embryo will take decades of tests.
“For the first time, we can study these phenomena in great detail and run drug screens to find medicines that could prevent infertility, find better contraceptives, or limit the appearance of epigenetic marks that appear in the blastocyst and lead to diseases during adult life,” Rivron told Research Gate.
“Embryos are very precious, but it is impossible to use them to detect drugs that could help with fertility without enough of them. With artificial blastocysts we can expand the numbers and eventually come to understand why some embryos are not implanted, “explains Rivron.
“I do not believe in the use of blastocysts for human reproduction. It would be to clone someone who is already alive. It is ethically very questionable, ” added Professor Rivron speaking to Mail Online.
Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the Francis Crick Institute in London said that while development can be considered a breakthrough in science, it is a relief that cannot yet be used to create, for example, a batch of genetically identical humans. “It would even be illegal – at least in the United Kingdom – to implant embryos in a woman,” he concluded.