According to a new study, scientists took a big leap forward by making mouse embryos using only stem cells taken from the skin, without using sperm or egg cells . These embryos have beating hearts as well as brain structures.
The discovery of stem cells and their ability to take the shape of any cell type in the body has opened many doors in the field of medicine. From baldness treatment to HIV treatment, stem cells are available everywhere. However, sourcing stem cells has raised major ethical concerns. The collection of these cells, which are abundant in the embryonic stages of cell growth, requires the destruction of the embryo before it is implanted in the female uterus. That’s why researchers are looking for an alternative way to source them, and they’ve even been successful in their search .
Studies show that stem cells are found in small numbers in organs such as the skin, which are constantly renewed throughout our lives. Jacob Hanna, a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, has developed a method that takes such stem cells back to the previous step, where they were more “naive.” In a previous study, Hanna and her team had shown that their technology could make human stem cells so “naive” that they could even be injected into mice, where they could function as if they were mice themselves.
Another Study Was On Producing Embryos From Artificial Womb
In a separate study, Hanna’s team also developed a special incubator with all the necessary conditions for an embryo to grow . In 2021, a group of researchers transformed 250 mouse embryos into fetuses with fully formed organs inside this artificial womb. What Hanna and her team wanted to know was whether the incubator could also grow embryos derived from stem cells .
The researchers then used naive stem cells that had been kept for years in a petri dish in the lab. These cells were divided into three groups before being placed in the special incubator. One was left untreated to develop into embryonic stem cells, while the other two were pretreated for a period of 48 hours to express genes that are key regulators of the placenta or yolk sac.
Cells were mixed once again in the incubator and allowed to grow. Although most failed to develop properly, 0.5% or 50 of 10,000 cells became spherical, which then took the form of an elongated embryo. The researchers labeled each group of cells differently to allow the placenta and egg sac to grow outside of the embryo. 8.5 , which is about half of the normal 20-day pregnancy in mice . On day one, these embryos exhibited early-developing organs such as a beating heart, blood stem cell circulation, a well-shaped brain, a neural tube, and an intestinal tract.
As well as helping to reduce the use of animals in stem cell research, research like this could one day help make techniques developed in the lab a reliable source of cells, tissues and organs for transplantation.