Scientists in Cambridge, UK, have used stem cells to grow a near life-like mouse embryo, representing a breakthrough with implications for research into the early stages of human pregnancy.
Cambridge University researchers say the synthetic structure of the lab-created embryo is very similar to the real thing - although it's the product of just two of the three different kinds of stem cells nature needs.
The scientists added that although it was known that stem cells interact with each other, the extent of that partnership was a shock.
“This was quite incredible and despite that we know that these cells are magical, stem cells are magical in their powerful potential of what they can do,” said Prof. Magdalena Zernicka Goetz from University of Cambridge. “We didn't realize that they were able to self-organize to this extent so beautifully, so perfectly.”
The team insists their breakthrough cannot become a healthy fetus and called suggestions the research would lead to the growth of human cells “deeply upsetting.”
The discovery may mean fewer mouse or human embryos are needed for research and could also help explain why so many human pregnancies fail in this early stage of development.