Could 'synthetic' embryos be the new solution for infertility?

Alicia Farmer
May 4, 2018

Scientists have for the first time created embryo-like structures in the lab from stem cells, without recourse to eggs or sperm, they reported on Wednesday.

This can help scientists examine the early processes of embryo implantation, something they never had access to before since most women are unaware that they are pregnant at this stage.

The embryos that were placed into the womb linings of five female mice even grew for a few days, the article added. Studying the process would help scientists learn more about the poorly understood processes of embryo implantation, deciphering infertility. It was believed to occur due to the abnormalities growing in the embryo.

Scientists from stem cells to create an embryo in its early stage.

The use of stem cells in lieu of the sperm cells and the eggs have a broader perspective for the research studies to proceed.

He said: "It may come as a relief to others that such a method of producing many genetically identical human embryo-like structures that might be capable of implantation is not feasible - even if it would be illegal to implant them into women, as is clearly the situation in the United Kingdom".

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According to Nicolas Rivron, one of the authors of the new study: "In a natural embryo, those same stem cells are in three dimensions talking to each other in a language that we barely understand".

The research was meant to investigate the crucial part of pregnancy that happens when an egg develops into a blastocyst: the thin outer sphere of cells that will become the placenta, and a tiny inner sphere of cells that will become the embryo.

Bundles of mouse stem cells self-organized into proto-embryos initiating pregnancy when these were implanted into mouse wombs.

"Because embryos are so precious and scarce, it is nearly impossible to test new medicines on them", Professor Rivron told CNN. "They will help us better understand the hidden processes at the start of life, to find solutions for fertility problems, and to develop new drugs without the use of lab animals", said Rivron. That would require approval. Professor Robin Lovell-Badge from the UK's Francis Crick Institute said the prospects of being able to replicate the experiment in humans is "very remote".

"However, it may come as a relief to others that such a method of producing many genetically identical human embryo-like structures that might be capable of implantation is not feasible - even if it would be illegal to implant them into women, as is clearly the situation in the United Kingdom". Rivron said that although he will create and study mouse embryos using this method, he will not create human embryos.

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