Foodies in Israel have created the world’s first lab-grown “synthetic embryo,” in a breakthrough that has brought science one step closer to making babies without biological parents, or even without fertilized eggs or a uterus, writes Baxter Dmitry.
Led by molecular geneticist Joseph Hanna, a team of researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science has succeeded in creating the synthetic “embryo” of a mouse in a lab, bringing them one step closer to their goal of developing synthetic human stem cells. in an effort to solve human health crises.
The research raises serious ethical concerns, with critics warning that babies will be made for “spare parts,” or worse, for the sexual gratification of adults.
This new embryo model, detailed in the paper published this week in the medical journal Cell, was able to mimic all the features of an early body, “including precursors of heart, blood, brain and other organs.” and also “the “supporting cells” such as those found in the placenta and other tissues needed to initiate and maintain pregnancy, as stem cell researcher Megan Munsie of the University of Melbourne wrote in a piece for The Conversation.
The research could have major consequences beyond the obvious ethical concerns. “This is a critical stage: People lose a lot of pregnancies around this stage, and we don’t really know why,” Munsie wrote. “Having models provides a way to better understand what could go wrong and potential insights into what we might be able to do about it.”
However, the embryo model survived only eight of the mouse’s 20-day embryonic cycle, a critical drawback given the stated goal of Renewal Bio, the company Hanna founded, to have this research funded commercially.
The startup’s goal is to develop synthetic human stem cells in an effort to “solve” human health crises, a science that experts say won’t be ready for decades. In short, Bio Renewal aims to create embryonic versions of humans so that they can harvest tissues for transplants.
Critics who spoke to MIT Technology Review said it wasn’t time to talk about making synthetic human embryos, especially given the larger political context and controversy surrounding the research. “It’s absolutely not necessary,” Nicolas Rivron, a stem cell scientist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, told the magazine, “so why would you do it?”