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Breakthrough: Scientists Just Created the World’s First Artificial Embryo

Mar 04, 2017 06:38 AM EST
Human Body's Wonder Scientific Travelling Exhibition Held In Nanjing
NANJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 26: (CHINA OUT) A woman views an embryo specimen during the 'Human Body's Wonder Scientific Travelling Exhibition' October 26, 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. The exhibition displays eight complete real human body specimens and about 160 pieces of small samples, such as organs and skin, to promote science and help people know more about their bodies.
(Photo : China Photos/Getty Images)

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.

Read Also: Humanity One Step Closer to Designer Babies: US Panel Clarifies Stance on Human Embryo Editing

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.

Read Also: The Rise of Chimeras: Scientists Successfully Created First Ever Human-Pig Embryo  

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