Researchers have created the world’s first “synthetic embryos” in a ground-breaking feat that bypassed the need for sperm, eggs and fertilisation, reported Guardian.
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that stem cells from mice could be made to self-assemble into early embryo-like structures with an intestinal tract, the beginnings of a brain, and a beating heart.
Known as synthetic embryos because they are created without fertilised eggs, the living structures are expected, in the near term, to drive a deeper understanding of how organs and tissues form during the development of natural embryos.
But researchers believe the work could also reduce animal experimentation and ultimately pave the way for new sources of cells and tissues for human transplantation. For example, skin cells from a leukemia patient could potentially be transformed into bone marrow stem cells to treat their condition.
“Remarkably, we show that embryonic stem cells generate whole synthetic embryos, meaning this includes the placenta and yolk sac surrounding the embryo,” said Prof Jacob Hanna, who led the effort. “We are truly excited about this work and its implications.” The work is published in Cell, reads the report.