Laboratory-grown embryo research is expected to change medicine

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According to more Studies have shown that one-third of pregnancies will lead to miscarriage, and one-third of babies will have birth defects due to the formation of errors in the womb. Studying how embryos develop can help us find ways to reduce these numbers. In 2022, we will see the progress of this research due to stem cell-based embryo-like structures that can be cultured in the laboratory.

stem cell Provide a powerful method to study the early development of embryos. They can be grown in large numbers in the laboratory and can promote the production of a variety of cell types, including brain, blood, bone, and muscle.

Recently, several researchers have found a way to connect stem cells together to form small 3D cell spheres, which helps produce tiny embryo-like structures. These are still in their infancy-the structure may be variable, their creation is inefficient and they cannot be developed further. Next year, we may see improvements, more advanced embryo-like structures made from stem cells. We may also see scientists using these models to study specific questions, such as how the embryo implants into the uterus, how the organ begins to develop, or how the embryo ensures that the cells are in the right place.

This kind of research is traditionally difficult to perform with human embryos. Parents using in vitro fertilization can donate their excess embryos, but regulation (supported internationally and enshrined in the UK law) prevents researchers from cultivating them for more than 14 days. This makes it impossible to directly study the progress of the human embryo, because it transforms from a set of cells to a structure with basic body tissue-when it is 2 to 4 weeks old. The International Stem Cell Research Association, which represents researchers in the field, called for an open dialogue on whether this restriction should be changed. It recommends that human embryo culture should be expanded according to specific circumstances. It remains to be seen how regulators will respond to this situation.

At the same time, stem cell embryo-like models may completely reduce some of the need to use “real” human embryos. They will enable researchers to conduct precise studies of embryonic development, such as observing their reactions when genes are mutated or exposed to hazardous chemicals. Because they are made of stem cells, they can even be produced by taking blood or skin samples from patients with birth defects and turning the clock back to an embryo-like state. This can help us figure out how defects occur, and may even take measures to reduce the incidence of such diseases in the future.

The development of embryo-like models will raise many new ethical issues. In addition to the possibility of moving along the landslide in the direction of cloning, embryonic models based on stem cells are beginning to blur the boundaries between what we think of as humans and non-humans. The early human embryo, when it is only a small group of 16 cells, is it more valuable if it comes from the combination of sperm and egg? Or is it the same as the one extracted from stem cells in the laboratory? Does the moral status that usually applies to human embryos also apply to cell populations, even in arrangements that may only vaguely reflect actual embryonic developmental elements?

As we move further towards models that can alleviate the destructive conditions faced at the beginning of life, we will also find ourselves as a society facing the challenge of asking major questions, including the basic question of what it means to be a human being.


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