From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Lab-Grown Human Embryos
Mains level : Not Much
- Scientists have successfully developed a “human embryo” in a laboratory without using traditional egg or sperm cells.
- The model was constructed using a combination of stem cells, which possess the ability to differentiate into various cell types, resulting in a structure resembling an early human embryo.
Creating Human Embryo artificially
- This model is considered one of the most comprehensive representations of a 14-day-old human embryo.
- Multiple research teams worldwide have been working on similar embryo-like models, with approximately six such models published in the current year.
- While none fully replicate early embryo development processes, they collectively contribute to scientific understanding.
Challenges in Creating the Model
- Researchers in Israel utilized stem cells and chemical components, but only a small fraction spontaneously assembled into different cell types.
- Approximately 1% of the mixture exhibited this spontaneous assembly, making the process inefficient.
Importance of Embryo Models and Research
- Ethical constraints prevent direct research on early embryo development after implantation in the uterus.
- Understanding early stages of embryo development is crucial as most miscarriages and birth defects occur during this period.
- Such research aids in the comprehension of genetic and hereditary diseases.
- Insights into why some embryos develop normally and implant successfully can enhance in vitro fertilization success rates.
Potential of Embryo-Like Models
- These models enable the study of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental influences on embryo development.
- They facilitate the investigation of genetic defects and the development of potential genetic therapies.
Limits of Lab-Grown Embryos
- Lab-grown embryos are solely for studying the early stages of foetal development.
- Implantation attempts are prohibited, and these models are typically destroyed after 14 days.
- Originating from a UK committee proposal in 1979, the 14-day limit aligns with natural embryo implantation completion.
- Beyond this point, embryos begin exhibiting characteristics of individuality and cannot split into twins.
- The ethical considerations shift as embryos progress from a clump of cells to entities with individual potential, often marked by the Primitive Streak.
Insights from Embryo Models
- Models like the one developed in Israel shed light on DNA duplication errors and chromosome imbalances.
- These errors are now understood to occur earlier in the development process, during ongoing DNA duplication.
- Such models aid in identifying the roles of various genes in fetal development, enabling gene manipulation for research purposes.
- Lab-grown human embryo models represent a significant scientific achievement.
- They provide a unique window into early embryo development and the understanding of genetic and developmental processes.
- While not suitable for reproduction, these models hold promise for advancing genetic and medical research.