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Is an artificial fetus formed from stem cells?

Is an artificial fetus formed from stem cells?

A research team claims to have created artificial human embryos using stem cells.Source: dpa

Lectures by a research team about embryo-like structures taken from human cells caused a stir in the scientific community. The so-called artificial embryos, which a group led by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz claims to have created from a single stem cell, are said to be very similar to real human embryos.

However, experts point out that the results cannot be taken seriously, as no study with comprehensible data is available.

The researchers hope to gain insights into embryonic development

The advantage of embryo-like structures is that, from a purely legal point of view, early embryonic development could be better researched in many countries – even if this would raise new ethical questions. True embryos, which are formed after the fusion of a sperm and an egg, are subject to special legal protection.

Newer genetic engineering procedures, in which, for example, parts of an individual’s genetic material are modified, are mainly subject to EU requirements. The European Court of Justice decided that.

07/25/2018 | 00:21 min

Zernicka Goetz, who does research at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain and at the California Institute of Technology in the US, had already introduced the process of producing artificial embryos to mice last year. However, if this is at all possible, we are still a long way from viable offspring, because artificial embryos have not yet developed for a long time.

There are no body parts or organs in the artificial fetuses

Spielman had watched a lecture a few days earlier in which Zernicka-Goetz presented results on eight-day-old artificial embryos. “The cells showed very similar signaling pathways and cell types as in real human embryos,” said Spielman.

Research on real fetuses is prohibited in Germany

On Wednesday, the British newspaper “The Guardian” reported another lecture by the researcher, in which she presented structures that were more than 14 days old. If the results are reliable, then artificial embryos would be a potential alternative for scientists.

In some countries, it is allowed to conduct research on real human embryos, but not later than the 14th day of development. On the other hand, in Germany, according to Spielmann, research on human embryos is not allowed at all. In his opinion, even artificial embryos – if any – should not be used in this country.