According to The Times of Israel, scientists in Israel have achieved a huge advance by creating mouse embryos using solely skin stem cells rather than sperm or egg cells. These embryos have developing brains and heartbeats.
Many avenues in the field of medicine have been opened by the discovery of stem cells and their capacity to assume the form of any cell type in the body. Stem cells have numerous applications, including the treatment of HIV and baldness.
However, the source of stem cells has generated significant ethical questions. The embryo must be destroyed before being placed in the female womb to collect these cells, which are present in large quantities during the embryonic phases of cell proliferation. As a result, researchers have been exploring a different approach to get them and have had some success in doing so.
more “naive” stem cell research
According to studies, stem cells can also be found in trace amounts in organs like the skin, regularly renewed throughout life. The multi-potency of stem cells can be useful because the process calls for several cell types.
However, an approach that might return such stem cells to a prior stage, where they are more “naive,” was devised by Jacob Hanna, an Israeli professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science. In a prior experiment, Hanna and his team showed that their approach could render human stem cells so “naive” that they could even be put into mice, where they would behave exactly like the mice’s own cells.
Separately, Hanna’s team has created a unique incubator with all the conditions required for an embryo to thrive. 250 mouse embryos were developed into fetuses with fully developed organs in 2021 by a team of scientists using this artificial womb. Hanna and his crew were interested in finding out if the incubator could also develop embryos made from stem cells.
stem-cell produced embryos
Then, naive stem cells that had been in vitro cultivated for years in a petri dish were employed by the researchers. These cells were split into three groups before being put into the unique incubator. The other two were pretreated for 48 hours to express genes that were master controllers of either the placenta or yolk sac, while one was left untreated to develop into embryonic stem cells.
In the incubator, the cells were combined once more and given space to develop. While the majority did not get correctly mature, 50 out of 10,000 cells, or 0.5%, went on to form spheres that later took the elongated form of embryos.
To be able to track the development of the yolk sac and placenta outside of the embryo, the researchers assigned unique labels to each group of cells. According to a university news release, these embryos showed early organs like the beating heart, blood stem cell circulation, a brain with well-defined folds, a neural tube, and an intestinal tract at day 8.5, or around half of the average gestation of 20 days in mice
Hanna told the Times of Israel that this is the first time a scientific team has created advanced embryos using stem cells. Understanding how stem cells know what to do, how they self-organize into organs, and how they locate their designated locations inside an embryo is our next task.
The methods created in his lab could eventually help become a dependable source of cells, tissues, and organs for transplantation and assist in reducing animal usage in stem cell research.
The study’s results were released in the Cell journal.