‘Synthetic’ embryo with brain and beating heart grown from stem cells
A research team in the U.K. has announced a huge leap in their long-sought ability to grow synthetic human embryos in a lab without the benefit of a male sperm or female egg.
The journal Neuroscience News reports that researchers from the University of Cambridge have created model embryos from mouse stem cells that form a brain, a beating heart, and the foundations of all the other organs of the body, describing it as “a new avenue for recreating the first stages of life.”
The team developed the embryo model without eggs or sperm, and instead used stem cells, which can be used to “guide” the development of almost any type of cell in the body. They have been working toward this goal for more than a decade.
According to Neuroscience News:
“The researchers mimicked natural processes in the lab by guiding the three types of stem cells found in early mammalian development to the point where they start interacting. By inducing the expression of a particular set of genes and establishing a unique environment for their interactions, the researchers were able to get the stem cells to ‘talk’ to each other.”
The stem cells self-assembled into structures that progressed through the successive developmental stages until they had beating hearts and the foundations of the brain, as well as the yolk sac from which the embryo develops and gets nutrients. Unlike other synthetic embryos, the Cambridge-developed models reached the point where the entire brain, including the anterior portion, began to form.
“This is a further point in development than has been achieved in any other stem cell-derived model,” the journal stated.
The results could be used to guide repair and development of synthetic human organs for transplantation. This would amount to growing humans in a lab for the sole purpose of cultivating their organs, an ethical situation not even addressed in the Neuroscience article.
Research leader Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, professor in Mammalian Development and Stem Cell Biology in Cambridge’s Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, told Neuroscience News:
“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. 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.”
This research was partially funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health under the Obama administration’s Brain Activity Map project or BAM. Francis Collins was head of the NIH at that time.
According to the article, part of the process includes the “manipulation of genes.”
The project reflects a “major advance in the study,” which is “the ability to generate the entire brain, in particular the anterior part, which has been a major goal in the development of synthetic embryos.”
You can read the entire article here.
For anyone who has read Aldous Huxley’s classic novel, Brave New World, this type of scientific chicanery should come as no surprise. Technocrats have long coveted the ability to usurp the creative genius of God Almighty, thinking they can improve upon God’s creation of human beings in his holy image. When you as a scientist attempt to reverse engineer something as sacred as the creation of life itself, it will not end well.
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