Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Lab-Grown Human Embryos: A Breakthrough in Science


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lab-Grown Human Embryos

Mains level : Not Much


Central Idea

  • 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.

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