Innovation

Human Embryo Mass Production Soon Possible With This Device

Production of synthetic human embryos may soon become easier and faster. Scientists have created a new tool that is expected to lead studies focused on human development. 

An embryo is the early stage of humans, where critical body structures start formation. Scientists said mass production of embryos could help expand the understanding of how humans form in the womb. 

The lab-produced embryos are known as embryoids, which have long been studied by many scientists. Embryoids are made of human stem cells that are modified to form structures similar to human embryos. 

With the new tool, scientists said they are able to rapidly manufacture large numbers of embryoids, NPR reported Wednesday

"This new system allows us to achieve a superior efficiency to generate these human embryo-like structures," Jianping Fu, lead researcher and an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said. "Such human embryo-like structures have a lot of potential to open what we call the so-called black box of human development."

Previous studies faced challenges since guidelines require scientists to examine embryos only before reaching 14 days of development. But Fu said mass producing embryoids with their tool would help speed up experiments. 

Experts said studying embryoids might mainly help understand health issues, such as birth defects and miscarriages. Synthetic human embryos might also be used for drug testing to see its potential side effects. 

The embryoids making tool, described in the journal Nature, also sparked the idea of making "synthetic" human life. 

"It's a major advance in the knowledge of early human development," Ali Brivanlou, an embryologist at the Rockefeller University in New York, said. "We're opening up windows to aspects of development that we have never seen before. This knowledge is really the Holy Grail of human embryology."

Meanwhile, some scientists and bioethicists noted that Fu’s study might also cause concerns within the scientific community. They said the team should avoid allowing synthetic embryos to develop into a baby. 

Fu agreed and said their embryoids are not complete models of full human embryos. The researcher explained that their tool produces embryoids that resemble only a portion of the human embryo.

Embryo Embryoids are lab-produced embryos made of stem cells that are modified to study early human development. Pixabay

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