Scientists develop model human embryo with beating heart cells and blood

The features were created in the lab using embryonic stem cells, which were then inserted into a specially built spinning container that functions as an artificial uterus. 
Mrigakshi Dixit
Microscopic view of embryonic cell.
Microscopic view of embryonic cell.


Life evolves from a single fertilized cell to a fully formed organism composed of billions or trillions of specialized cells. However, one of the most fundamental questions that biologists have been trying to decode is how the earliest phases of life progress. 

To understand the first few weeks of life, scientists have turned to synthetic embryo models

In a remarkable development, the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge has produced a model human embryo with a heartbeat and some blood that might provide insights into the "black box" stage of life, The Guardian reported.

Embryo model with beating heart cells  

Human stem cells, the master cells in our bodies that can evolve into practically any cell type, were used to create this synthetic model. This embryo model is not fertilized with eggs or sperm. 

According to The Guardian, the researchers develo some of the cells and structures that generally form in the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy. 

Scientists were able to create beating heart cells — a feature that appears on the 23rd day in a normal embryo. Furthermore, the embryo model mimics certain traces of red blood that would occur in the fourth week. 

Both of these features were created in the lab using embryonic stem cells. The embryonic components were then put into a specially built spinning container that functions as an artificial uterus. 

The research emphasizes that this model lacked the placenta and yolk sac from which the fetus develops and obtains nourishment in its initial weeks. As expected, over time, the artificially creations began to deviate from the natural growth course.

The research has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a journal publication.

Importance of this development 

This advancement, in addition to providing a new way for recreating the early stages of life, has applications in various medical fields. 

The development provides an exceptional chance to comprehend the underlying code of various genetic illnesses as well as the causes of recurrent miscarriages. 

The lab-grown model might help the pharmaceutical industry to screen the effect of specific medications on embryos. Furthermore, it might be used to investigate any association between gestational diabetes and cardiac abnormalities in newborns. 

Understanding early human development research has been rapidly gaining pace in recent years. 

A few days before this development, researchers created the world's first human embryo model, which replicated features seen within the first 14 days. 

The developments have only scratched the surface, and there is still a long way to go in understanding early mammalian development. Also, there are several ethical problems as well as stringent rules regarding research on human embryos, which might impede scientific research.

But both of these advancements serve as foundational steps, and this new capability to develop synthetic models might provide scientists with unique insight into embryonic processes that have hitherto been difficult to monitor. 

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