“Scientists have made a major step forward to creating life in the laboratory without using sperm or eggs.
Two different kinds of stem cells were combined in a dish – and they grew into an early form of embryo.
Creating embryos from stem cells would create an unlimited supply of identical embryos, which would be useful for medical research.
The development is hoped to shed light on one of the biggest causes of infertility – embryos failing to implant in the womb. It will also be useful for testing the effects of new medical treatments.
May lead to human clones
Researchers say that the technique – carried out in mice – could result in a mouse being created without using sperm or eggs within three years. But experts warn that if the technique could be replicated in people, it may lead to the creation of an army of human clones. It could take as long as two decades before the technique is likely to be perfected to create human embryos out of stem cells, the experts warned.
‘Relief’ it does not work in humans
Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the Francis Crick Institute said that while the development was a breakthrough for research, it may come as a relief it cannot yet happen in humans.
He said: ‘It may come as a relief to others that such a method of producing many genetically identical human embryo-like structures that might be capable of implantation is not feasible – even if it would be illegal to implant them into women, as is clearly the situation in the UK.’
Professor Rivron said it was ‘extremely unlikely’ the technology could be used by a rogue state to create an army of clones – as they would not have the scientific expertise to do so.
Dr Dusko Ilic, Reader in Stem Cell Science, King’s College London (KCL), said ‘This is the first time that scientists were able to shed a light on molecular mechanisms of implantation and these findings may help us to understand more about some aspects of infertility and improve outcome of assisted reproduction.’”