World news – Skin cells that have grown into « embryos »


Melbourne researchers are behind a groundbreaking world first that will revolutionize medicine, but there is already controversy.

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne have discovered that skin cells can be used to create human embryos.

Law banning human cloning has temporarily halted the discovery by a Melbourne-led team that they could grow human embryos in a laboratory using skin cells. But a government research council believes the law isn’t the only thing preventing these embryos from becoming clones.

The team at a Monash University laboratory took skin cells from a single donor and grew them into genetic and structural replicas human embryos, which they have named « iBlastoids ».

Lead researcher Professor Jose Polo said the iBlastoids « will allow us to study the early days of human development without using human embryos ».

This diagram shows the difference between natural fertilization of an egg into an embryo and fertilization in the laboratory from skin cells. Source: Supplied

Prof. Polo is pretty sure there is one thing they can’t.

“They can only be used to model the early days of human development. In fact, all of the evidence so far suggests that they cannot be used to model development beyond a few weeks, ”he said.

While it is not possible to grow into a human, a law has to stop human cloning, created a roadblock to research requiring embryos to be destroyed within two weeks of their creation.

After scientists cloned a sheep named Dolly using a technique called nuclear transfer in the mid-1990s Australia and other nations changed the definition of an embryo to include embryos created without the use of an egg or sperm.

The National Health and Medical Research Council told the Herald Sun that the iBlastoids « added the definition of a human embryos, « but the Council shared Prof. Polo’s doubts about their growth potential.

 » There is no clue insists that iBlastoids could or could be used to create real humans, « said the NHMRC.

Researchers should stop experimenting with embryos or similar structures after 14 days from fertilization, since they then reach stages of development that bioethicists believe to be unique forms of life.

In accordance with this standard, none of the embryos in the Monash laboratory have been kept for more than 11 days, with most being destroyed after six days.

Although the discovery holds great potential for future research, it is also likely to lead to ethical concerns.

From left, PhD student Jia Ping Tan, Professor Jose Polo and Dr. Xiaodong (Ethan) Liu. Image: Monash UniversitySource: Supplied

Stem Cells Australia program director Professor Martin Pera said that Monash research and other similar studies around the world “will undoubtedly lead to further discussions about what is working with embryo models in a shell should be allowed, especially if it is refined and later stages of human development capture development. « 

Prof. Pera said the International Society for Stem Cell Research will shortly issue new guidelines for research into embryo models.

Bond University postdoctoral fellow Dr Jason Limnios said the public would « likely have a number of feelings » about the new technology, but stressed the importance of understanding that the iBlastoids « are not normal human embryos and will not have a baby if implanted « ”.

Professor Megan Munsie of the School of Biomedical Science n University of Melbourne also said that « distinction is important » and that the iBlastoids « should not be considered equivalent to human embryos made in an IVF laboratory ».

Prof. Munsie said the However, iBlastoids will provide a new way to explore an area in the science of human development that is still « very poorly understood ».

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