Scientists create world’s first synthetic embryos

4 August 2022

A natural embryo (left) compared with a synthetic embryo. (Photo: Weizmann Institute)

In a groundbreaking feat researchers have created the world’s first synthetic embryos without the need for sperm, eggs and fertilisation.

The Times of Israel reports:

An Israeli lab has grown synthetic mouse embryos with brains and beating hearts — in an egg-free sperm-free procedure that used stem cells taken from skin.

The breakthrough, published on Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Cell, represents the first time that an advanced embryo of any species has been created from stem cells alone, cell biologist Prof. Jacob Hanna of the Weizmann Institute of Science told The Times of Israel.

Cell biologist Prof. Jacob Hanna said this represents the first time that an advanced embryo of any species has been created from stem cells alone. “It’s remarkable. There was no sperm, no egg and no uterus, but we managed to get embryos formed from stem cells alone to eight days — a third of the gestation period of a mouse — with a beating heart,” Prof. Hanna said.

The Guardian explains that synthetic embryos could drive deeper understanding of how organs and tissues form during the development of natural embryos. But also the work could reduce animal experimentation and pave the way for new sources of cells and tissues for human transplantation.

STAT further adds:

Imagine a patient with untreatable leukemia — they need a bone marrow transplant to survive. In Hanna’s future, scientists can take a biopsy of skin cells from that patient, wind them back into stem cells, grow them in naive conditions, and put them in this specialized bioreactor. The end result? An army of bone marrow stem cells that can be given to that patient, without them having to wait for a donor match that might never come. “It’s early days but we’re really opening up the field to explore these possibilities more seriously,” said Hanna. “We’re moving from science fiction to science.”

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