Scientists have created the miracle of life – no man or woman needed.
Using only a mixture of stem cells, researchers at the University of Cambridge were able to generate a living ‘synthetic’ mouse embryo – with a brain and a beating heart in what they considered a ‘world’s first’.
He could have developed a spine, intestines and muscles – and, eventually, become a living mouse.
The experiment’s scientists’ observations could provide life-saving insight into the mysteries of human development. For example, the research could help doctors better understand the causes of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy or could inform the study of lab-grown organs that could be used in organ donation and could help alleviate the current donor shortage.
“Our mouse embryo model not only develops a brain, but also a beating heart, all the components that make up the body,” said lead author and professor, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz. in a report. “It’s just incredible that we’ve come this far. It’s been our community’s dream for years, and the main focus of our work for a decade and finally we’ve done it.
The Cambridge lab began its experiment with three primary embryonic stem cells, throwing them into a supportive environment and nudging them towards each other, just close enough so they could ‘communicate’ and encourage life to form. .
All cells – liver cells, skin cells, blood cells, etc. – begin as stem cells but quickly differentiate in the embryo to build a complete living organism. This is why they are often called “master” cells. As the embryo develops, some stem cells manifest in organs, bones and other tissues, while others multiply into “daughter” cells that the body stores for later – like , for example, when we receive an injury and need to generate new tissue for healing. .
These three embryonic stem cells had shown the foundation for successful development by beginning to form a brain, heart and nutritional yolk sac, but did not survive beyond 8.5 days – just under half the time required for the birth of a mouse, about 20 days.
Scientists are a long way from creating a living, breathing body entirely inside the lab, and without input from a mother and father, but that’s not the subject of this study. What the Cambridge researchers observed in just over a week could be invaluable, they said, given that 20-50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, often before the mother has a clue. that she is pregnant.
“It’s an absolutely fantastically complex stage of development, and [our study] has extremely relevant meaning for the rest of our lives,” Zernicka-Goetz said at a press conference, according to Gizmodo.
If the Cambridge team’s methods later prove effective with human tissue, they hope to apply them to creating laboratory organs for transplantation.
“What makes our work so exciting is that the knowledge derived from it could be used to develop correct synthetic human organs to save lives that are currently being lost,” Zernicka-Goetz said. “It should also be possible to affect and heal adult organs using the knowledge we have about how they are made.”