Scientists Create 14-Day-Old Human Embryo Models In A Lab, Raising Ethical Concerns

researcher injecting fluid into petri dish with embryos


Scientists continue to push the boundaries between what they can do and what they should do.

The latest case of this involves the creation of a completely human-like embryo model without the use of a sperm or egg.

Jacob Hanna, a stem cell biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and his team of researchers revealed they have grown 14-day-old embryo models in a report published in the scientific journal Nature.

If this sounds like part of the plot of the Amazon Series Dead Ringers then you’re not wrong.

These man-made human embryo-like structures are supposedly being created to assist in research on miscarriage, birth defects, infertility, drug testing, and growth of tissues for transplant.

“…these synthetic embryo models had all the structures and compartments characteristic of this stage, including the placenta, yolk sac, chorionic sac and other external tissues that ensure the models’ dynamic and adequate growth,” the Weizmann Institute of Science wrote in a statement.

“The drama is in the first month, the remaining eight months of pregnancy are mainly lots of growth,” Hanna said. “But that first month is still largely a black box. Our stem cell–derived human embryo model offers an ethical and accessible way of peering into this box. It closely mimics the development of a real human embryo, particularly the emergence of its exquisitely fine architecture.”

Of course, the Weizmann Institute of Science calls this research an “ethical approach to unlocking the mysteries of the very first stages of embryonic development.”

Others aren’t so sure.

Man-made embryo models can be produced up to 14-days old, the legal limit for human embryo lab research in many countries, CBS News reports. At that point, organs like the brain begin to develop.

“The similarity to the natural embryo is remarkable, almost uncanny,” Jesse Veenvliet, a developmental biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany, told Science in June.

However, because Hanna and his team created “models” they should not be considered actual human embryos.

“…in contrast to similar studies published earlier this year, these embryo-like structures contained most of the cell types found in developing embryos,” said Darius Widera, an expert in stem cell biology at the U.K.’s University of Reading.

Widera added that “a robust regulatory framework is more needed than ever before” because these embryo models are derived from stem cells are formed artificially, they are, according to CBS News, “not explicitly covered by existing regulations.”

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Before settling down at BroBible, Douglas Charles, a graduate of the University of Iowa (Go Hawks), owned and operated a wide assortment of websites. He is also one of the few White Sox fans out there and thinks Michael Jordan is, hands down, the GOAT.