Cambridge scientists create artificial embryo with no sperm or egg

Cambridge scientists create artificial embryo with no sperm or egg

Scientists of the Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz Group, a Mammalian Embryo and Stem Cell laboratory [1], have created a mouse embryo without the use of egg or sperm. Instead the embryo was crafted exclusively from stem cells [2]. The scientists molded two types of mouse stem cells (embryonic stem cells and extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells) into a three-dimensional shape whose morphogenesis is meant to closely mirror that of naturally generated embryos [3]. In this way, the group has “demonstrate[d] the ability of distinct stem cell types to self-assemble in vitro to generate embryos whose morphogenesis, architecture, and constituent cell-types resemble natural embryos” [3]. In essence, this experiment has shown that it is possible to construct stem cells such that they self-assemble into an artificial embryo whose morphology mirrors the morphology of naturally generated embryos.

This is the first time scientists have been able to generate an embryo without both an egg and sperm. This advancement can be accredited to the use of extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells in addition to embryonic stem cells, where extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells are responsible for the production of the placenta and the embryonic stem cells can be used to create any type of body tissue. Four days after these two cell types were introduced to one another in a gel matrix, they generated a functioning artificial embryo [2].

This research will be instrumental in understanding and tracking early development of developing embryos. It also has potential to influence current fertility treatments, and has an impact on the possibilities for further embryonic research.

Resources:

  1. “Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz Group,” Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz Group, accessed March 22, 2017, http://zernickagoetzlab.pdn.cam.ac.uk/index.html

  2. Brown, Kirsten V., “Scientists Have Created the First Artificial Embryo Without Using an Egg or Sperm.” Gizmodo, last modified March 1, 2017, http://gizmodo.com/scientists-have-created-the-first-artificial-embryo-wit-1793058724

  3. Harrison, Sarah Ellys, Berna Sozen, Neophytos Christodoulou, Christos Kyprianou, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz. “Assembly of embryonic and extra-embryonic stem cells to mimic embryogenesis in vitro,” Science, last modified March 2, 2017. DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1810

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