According to the journal Nature on Thursday, Dec. 2, scientists employ human stem cells to produce a structure dubbed “blastoid” that can substitute true pre-embryonic in the lab.
Blastoid is a blastocyst model, a sphere of cells that grows within a week of fertilization. It is around the size of a single human hair.
Researchers claimed that these “blastoids” are helpful in studying human development. They also allow them to pursue biomedical research in fertility and contraception.
Obtaining and manipulating donated embryos in the laboratory is difficult. Therefore, the models are “a fantastic alternative” for studying human embryos, according to Nicolas Rivron, one of the Nature authors and a researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
The formations are not embryos, according to the journal Nature. However, scientists do not let them develop after two weeks due to long-standing ethical concerns.
“This unleashes the potential for scientific and biomedical discoveries,” Rivron said according to the Associated Press. What researchers learn about blastoids, for example, can be used to produce hormone-free contraception.
According to research, blastoids can accurately mimic critical phases of early embryonic development.
The blastoids first came into touch with cells from the uterine lining that hormones had activated. Then roughly half of them become connected and grow similarly to blastocysts.
The researchers ceased growing them after 13 days of examining the cells, according to Rivron.
He claimed at the time that the collection of cells did not depict a 13-day-old embryo since they were not fully grown or adequately ordered.
Rivron, who is on the society’s principles update working committee, cites rules that state that blastoids should never be introduced to animals or humans.
According to Dr. Barbara Golder, editor-in-chief of The Linacre Quarterly, the Catholic Medical Association’s journal, the emergence of blastoid cells shows “how science goes forward.”
However, she said: “The ethical problems will exist as long as there’s a connection to the stem cells that are derived from an aborted fetus and as long as we have to correlate one set of stem cell lines against ones that are embryonic stem-cell derived.”