April 14, 2024 2:45 pm
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Revolutionary Lab-Grown Human Embryo Models Ignite Demands for Regulation and Ethical Oversight

Scientists have achieved an unprecedented breakthrough by creating embryos that look like human embryos using stem cells in a laboratory environment. The research paves the way towards a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of genetic disorders, infertility, birth defects, and other pregnancy-related problems that have been previously held back by ethical concerns. It has also sparked calls for tighter regulations for the field. Given that it is not yet peer-reviewed, many experts have urged caution. Nonetheless, various labs around the world have released pre-print studies, showcasing their research in a bid to compete with one another. What is clear is that the data already released has prompted the need for new guidelines to be established.

Placenta, a yolk sac, and amniotic cavity are essential embryo characteristics that were absent in an earlier model, first produced by the team led by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of Cambridge University and California Institute of Technology, compared to the more advanced embryo-like structures created by the lab of Jacob Hanna at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, which contained additional features. Critics hailed the similarity of Hanna’s model to the natural embryo as being “remarkable, almost uncanny.” The ensuing media frenzy has emphasised the need for a governing framework to be developed for such embryo models. Cambridge University has launched a project in a bid to establish the first regulatory framework for stem cell-based embryos in the UK. Despite the ongoing work, the scientists managing the experiments have not shown any intention of implanting their created model into a human womb, and even if they did, the likelihood of it leading to babies is negligible. According to previous research, some embryos have been shown to display signs of pregnancy, albeit temporary, when implanted in a firm macaque’s womb.

In conclusion, researchers are urged to tread carefully, proceed with caution, and remain transparent in their methods to avoid significant setbacks for the field in the future.

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