Breakthrough: Scientists Just Created the World’s First Artificial Embryo
Scientists from the University of Cambridge created the world's first functional artificial mouse embryo using two types of stem cells and a 3D scaffold where the embryo is expected to grow. The team's findings were published in the journal Science.
According to a press release from the University of Cambridge, the researchers specifically used genetically modified mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which eventually forms the body, and extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells (TSCs), which will form the placenta.
With these two types -- and minus the primitive endoderm stem cells that forms the yolk sac -- the team was able to successfully develop a structure that can assemble itself and communicate, resulting in one that closely resembles a natural embryo.
"It has anatomically correct regions that develop in the right place and at the right time," study leader Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience explained.
This artificial embryo followed the pattern of development of a natural embryo: ECS on one side and TCS on the other, then cavities form inside each before the two ends join.
Zernicka-Goetz highlighted the significance of the two types of cells communicating with each other saying that the two kinds of cells "talk to each other."
"We knew that interactions between the different types of stem cell are important for development, but the striking thing that our new work illustrates is that this is a real partnership -- these cells truly guide each other," she said.
Zernicka-Goetz continued that this partnership is vital because without it, the cell will not develop into the correct shape and biological mechanisms will not occur properly at the right time.
However, this specific embryo is unlikely to take the next step of development into a healthy foetus. The researchers posited that the third type of stem cell is necessary to create a yolk sac and nourish the embryo.