Human embryos could be the next subjects of a groundbreaking study that kept mouse embryos alive outside the womb that developed a heart, stomach, head and limbs in six days.
A team of Israeli scientists grew small filled jars of nutrients in them that were placed on a spinning roll and each pumped with an oxygen mixture under pressure to simulate the natural process.
The embryos could grow in the artificial womb for up to 12 days, and researchers say they plan to continue the work of growing human embryos until week five.
While this study is considered groundbreaking, the team understands that trying human trials would spark ethical debates due to the fact that human embryos will be lost during the study.
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Human embryos could be the next subjects of a groundbreaking study that kept mouse embryo alive outside the uterus that developed its heart, stomach, head and limbs in six days.
Jacob Hanna, a developmental biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science who led the research team, told MIT’s Technology Review: ‘I understand the difficulties. I understand. You enter the domain of abortions. ‘
Hanna also emphasizes that the embryos used in the study will be only five days old and will be collected from IVF clinics where they would eventually be destroyed.
“So I would argue for growing it to day 40 and then throwing it away,” says Hanna. “Instead of getting tissue from abortions, let’s take a blastocyst and let it grow.”
Hanna and his group worked on this project for about seven years, with a lot of trial and error, tuning, and double checking – but all of this led to a two-step process for successfully growing mouse embryos.
A team of Israeli scientists grew small filled jars with nutrients in them that were placed on a spinning roll and each pumped with an oxygen mixture under pressure to simulate the natural process
The first step takes two days and starts with several day-old spherical mouse embryos containing 250 identical stem cells.
These were placed on a special growth medium in a lab dish, and the team had the balls adhere to this medium as they would on the uterine wall.
With this step, they managed to duplicate the first stage of embryonic development, in which the embryo doubles and triples in size, as it is divided into three layers: inner, middle, and outer.
The embryos then moved to the next stage of development where organ formation from each of the layers begins.
However, researchers knew they had to recreate the conditions of a natural uterus to stimulate growth.
The first step takes two days and starts with several day-old spherical mouse embryos containing 250 identical stem cells. Depicted are developed embryos with the heart in red in the center
The embryos were placed in small beakers filled with nutrients, such as human umbilical cord blood serum, which were attached to rollers to keep the solution moving and mixing.
The embryos were placed in small cups filled with nutrients, such as human umbilical cord blood serum, which were attached to rollers to keep the solution moving and mixing.
“That mixing seems to have helped the embryos, which grew without maternal blood supply to the placenta, bathed in the nutrients,” the team shared in a statement.
In addition to carefully regulating the nutrients in the cups, in further experiments the team learned to accurately control the gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide – not just the amounts, but also the gas pressure.
And within just six days, the embryos began to develop as if they were in their mother’s natural womb.
The embryos could grow in the artificial womb for up to 12 days, and researchers say they plan to continue the work of growing human embryos for at least five weeks.
The mouse embryos didn’t die until they grew too large for oxygen to diffuse through them, as they lack the natural blood supply that a placenta could provide.
However, Hanna told MIT that the focus is not on getting the embryos to fully render in the lab, but on viewing and manipulating early development.
“ We think you can inject genes or other elements into the cells, change the conditions or infect the embryo with a virus, and the system we’ve demonstrated will give you results consistent with the development in the womb of a mouse, ”he said.
The use of human embryos is part of the team’s future studies, but the five-week goal has even been banned under the ’14 day rule ‘in some countries.
This law prohibits the development of human embryos for longer than two weeks.
HOW DOES IVF WORK?
In vitro fertilization, also called IVF, is a medical procedure in which a woman has an already fertilized egg inserted into her uterus to conceive.
It is used when couples cannot conceive naturally and a sperm and egg are removed from their body and combined in a lab before the embryo is introduced to the woman.
Once the embryo is in the womb, the pregnancy should continue normally.
The procedure can be done using eggs and sperm from a couple or those from donors.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that IVF on the NHS should be offered to women under 43 who have been trying to conceive for two years through regular unprotected sex.
People can also afford IVF privately, which costs an average of £ 3,348 for a single cycle, according to figures published in January 2018, and there is no guarantee of success.
The NHS says success rates for women under 35 are about 29 percent, with the chances of a successful cycle decreasing as they age.
About eight million babies are thought to have been born as a result of IVF since the very first case, Britain’s Louise Brown, was born in 1978.
Chances of success
The IVF success rate depends on the age of the woman being treated, as well as the cause of the infertility (if it is known).
Younger women are more likely to have a successful pregnancy.
IVF is usually not recommended for women over the age of 42 as the chances of a successful pregnancy are considered too low.
Between 2014 and 2016, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:
29 percent for women under 35
23 percent for women aged 35 to 37
15 percent for women aged 38 to 39
9 percent for women aged 40 to 42
3 percent for women aged 43 to 44
2 percent for women over 44 years old