Miracles Versus Ethics

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Israeli scientists recently developed the world’s first synthetic embryos using mice stem cells, a milestone that has also raised ethical questions, Euronews reported.

Researchers at the Israel-based Weizmann Institute of Science wrote in their study that the novel embryos were made without using any eggs, sperm or even a mouse’s uterus.

They grew mouse stem cells – cells that can develop into any organ or tissue – using an artificial womb for eight days, the equivalent of three months of pregnancy in mice.

The team said that the embryos were able to develop a simple brain, an intestinal tract and a beating heart before they stopped growing after the eighth day.

Still, they maintained that synthetic embryos cannot be considered the same as natural ones, despite their similarities. The researchers added that attempts to implant them into a mouse’s womb did not result in pregnancy.

The science team explained that the findings aim to study and understand how organs develop in embryos and potentially reduce animal experimentation. They also hope that the study can aid in developing replacement organs for people who need transplants.

Even so, the experiments bring up some ethical questions about developing synthetic human embryos: Currently, there are regulations surrounding natural human embryos but synthetic ones remain unregulated.

“Our goal is not (to create a) pregnancy outside the uterus, whether it’s mice or any species,” lead author Jacob Hanna told the Washington Post. “We are really facing difficulties making organs – and in order to make stem cells become organs, we need to learn how the embryo does that.”

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