Israeli Scientists Grow Mouse Embryo With Beating Heart Using Only Stem Cells, Research Journal Reports
In a world first, Israeli scientists have created “synthetic embryos” without using sperm or eggs, having taken only stem cells from the skin of mice.
The groundbreaking experiment, the results of which were published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Cell, saw the stem cells taken from mice “self-assembleinto an embryo-like structure with an intestinal tract, a brain, and even a beating heart.
According to cell biologist, Professor Jacob Hanna of the Weizmann Institute of Science, the results were truly a “outstanding” results. “There was no sperm, no egg and no uterus, but we managed to get embryos formed from stem cells alone for eight days – a third of a mouse’s gestation period – with a beating hearthe told The Times of Israel.
He said it was the first time such an advanced animal embryo had been grown solely from stem cells.
Hanna told The Times that the study could pave the way for the growth of artificial, embryo-like structures that would be used in medicine, including growing human organs for transplantation. “The embryo is the best machine for making organs and the best 3D bio-printer; we tried to imitate what he does,” he explained.
The use of human embryos as a source of stem cells for the growth of transplanted organs has raised ethical concerns, but the new research offers a potential way around this problem, according to the research team, since the synthetic structures resembling to embryos are similar to regular embryos, but not viable for implantation.
Scientists managed to grow an embryo using a special incubator system. In the mechanism, each embryo bathes in a bottle filled with liquid which rotates so that the organism does not stick to the wall. The incubator provides the embryo with all the necessary conditions for development, including the necessary gas concentration, pressure and temperature, while the liquid serves as the nutrient solution.
The new experiment builds on two previous successes that scientists have achieved in previous years. Hanna’s team, in particular, had developed a method to reprogram stem cells at their earliest stages of development, when they have the greatest potential to play different roles. The researchers also created a device that allows them to grow natural mouse embryos outside the uterus.
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