- Researchers grow
embryos in the lab for 13 days, a period extending the time of normal
implantation in a mother's womb.
- Implantation was also
witnessed, another hallmark milestone in this study.
was stopped due to 14-day limit extended by the government
2 groups of
scientists from US and UK have grown embryos for 13 days and had to abandon
them due to the 14-day legal restriction imposed by the U.S and the UK governments.
into a mother's womb signifies the successful transition to the next stage in pregnancy
when diversification of lineage, the specification of
the fate of the cell and gastrulation begin. Scientists have thus far been
unable to understand the mystery associated with implantation of an embryo.
However, the current research that involves the use of specific in vivo
techniques has been successful in growing embryos for 13 days. Till now, the
maximum period of growth of embryos in the laboratory has only been 9 days with
7 days being the average.
‘Insight into the growth of embryos will improve understanding of pregnancy miscarriages and IVF failures.’
Brivanlou lead researcher from Rockefeller University, New York and Magdalena
Zernicka from the University of Cambridge, together with their team of
researchers grew the embryos in vivo
The study showed
the initial stages of growth of an embryo which will aid in understanding the
- Early Stages
of Growth of an Embryo: The essential landmarks in
the growth of a normal embryo were noted in the lab-grown
embryos like expansion of the embryos, lineage segregation, formation of the
bi-laminar disc, cavitation in the amniotic and yolk sac and diversification of
- Identification of Diseases: An
understanding of the initial stages of growth will aid in identifying the reason behind
developmental problems and diseases at this stage
Reasons Behind IVF Failure: Many couples across the world resort to IVF techniques to
have a baby. However, large proportion of the times, the technique fails as the
embryo does not get implanted in the mother's womb. Identifying the key factors
associated with implantation will aid in improving the chances of success in an
- Early Human Pregnancy Loss or Miscarriage: The
study provides insights into the growth and development of embryos in the
initial stages which can be used to understand and identify problems that lead
to termination of early pregnancy.
- Stem Cell Therapy: Identifying
the stages and the process involved inthe growth and differentiation of cells into
different cell lineages is useful for further studies of stem cell and cell replacement therapies.
The study raises
hope for scientists across the world about prospective benefits of this
landmark research. However, there are mounting calls from International
research bodies to revoke the 14-day ban in the growth of embryos.
Revoke in Ban
The law to allow
scientific research on embryos for only 14 days was passed in Britain nearly 30
years ago. Embryos that were discarded from artificial reproductive procedures
were allowed to be used for scientific research purposes for 14 days. The time
duration was fixed after religious heads and certain governing bodies considered
study on human embryos unethical.
The latest study
that has demonstrated the ability of the scientific community to grow cells for
longer periods, probably longer than 14 days, has raised serious debates about
increasing the time of study of embryos. Many scientists now want the ban
revoked to promote research and aid in improving treatment for certain
researchers Amy Wilkerson from Rockefeller University, Insoo Hyun from Case
Western Reserve University and Josephine Johnston from the Hastings Centre in
New York have written in The Journal Nature
for this ban to be
revisited. When revisiting the ban, these three scientists want discussions to
be held with local cultural and religious bodies for a more inclusive law. They
wrote "The kind of international discourse we envision could facilitate and
inform local decisions to amend law or research policy,"
advancements have triggered a re-think of the law as scientists argue about the
huge benefits to human society if details about the early stages of pregnancy
are studied. However, Magdalena
Zernicka, who was part of the study from the University
of Cambridge says "To be able to culture embryos for a couple of days longer
would provide an enormous body of information, but it's not for us now to
decide whether we should do it or not. Rules are very useful, we would always
adhere to them, and they should be set out by the wider community,"
Mouse and Human Embryos
Most studies on
early embryos were performed on mouse models, but this
study brings to the fore the significance of studying embryos from humans.
There are differences in cell types and growth characteristics, underlying the
importance of studying human embryos for better treatment modalities in cell
therapies and understanding miscarriages.
In this latest
study on human embryos, an attachment substrate was provided for the growth of
the embryos which did not require maternal inputs during the period of growth.
The study has
into the growth potential of human embryos in vivo.
for research on various diseases and illnesses.
- Fresh perspective into cell replacement
- Room for a discussion on the legal limit of 14 days for growing embryos in the
Deglincerti, Gist F. Croft, Lauren N. Pietila, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, Eric D. Siggia& Ali H. Brivanlou "Self-organization of the in vitro attached human embryo", Nature (2016)