World’s First “Synthetic” Embryo With Brain and Beating Heart Created, Report Says

According to the New York Post, scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed the first “synthetic” embryo with a functioning brain, heart and all the necessary components for the development of the rest of the body’s organs. The embryo was reportedly derived from mouse stem cells.

Stem cells, which are found throughout the body and may transform into almost any type of cell, were used to build the embryo model, rather than eggs or sperm, according to a press statement from the institution. Professor Zernicka-Goetz of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience specializes in the study of stem cells and mammalian development.

In order to simulate natural processes in the lab, the three distinct types of stem cells found in early mammalian development were advanced to the point where they began interacting with one another. According to the release, the researchers were successful in getting the stem cells to connect with each other by encouraging the expression of a certain set of genes and providing a conducive environment for communication.

“Our mouse embryo model not only develops a brain but also a beating heart, all the components that go on to make up the body,” the researcher is quoted saying in the release. “It’s just unbelievable that we’ve got this far. This has been the dream of our community for years and a major focus of our work for a decade and finally we’ve done it,” she added.

Professor Zernicka-Goetz and her team at Cambridge University have been studying the early stages of pregnancy for the past decade to determine why some pregnancies fail while others succeed. “The stem cell embryo model is important because it gives us accessibility to the developing structure at a stage that is normally hidden from us due to the implantation of the tiny embryo into the mother’s womb,” Ms. Zernicka-Goetz further said.

Scientists found that in addition to chemical signals, or by touch, the extraembryonic cells also communicate with the embryonic cells to guide their growth.

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