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  • Alyssa Spencer

Scientists Are Trying to Create ‘Human Embryo Models’ Using Stem Cells

A stem-cell derived human embryo model (Weizmann Institute of Science/PA)

A team of scientists from The Weizmann Institute claim that they have managed to create an ‘entity’ that closely resembles a human embryo model without the use of sperm, eggs, or a womb. The study was published in Nature Journal and the proposed purpose of these experiments is to provide a safe way to observe, study, and understand the earliest stages of human development.

This new advancement has sparked controversy about whether scientists are attempting to ‘play God’. While the current claim is that the experiment is to ethically study early human development, there is concern that it may eventually get taken too far. There has already been controversy surrounding lab-grown embryos for years.

There are already widespread regulations in place that state that scientists cannot develop an embryo in a lab past 14 days development. This means that for the time being, it would not be possible for most labs to attempt developing an embryo past 14 days. There are labs however, that do not recognize those regulations and could potentially push the boundaries past 14 days development. There are however, doubts as to whether a lab grown embryo could survive past 21 days development.

Another ethical concern being raised is the use of stem cells in the experiments. The embryonic stem cells used in these experiments are often sourced or ‘harvested’ from various different types of already existing human embryos. They will harvest from the leftover embryos from vitro fertilization, harvest a fertilized human embryo, obtain them from specially created embryos called “therapeutic clones” from a patient's DNA, or grow them in a nutrient solution in a laboratory petri dish. 

The sourcing methods could potentially raise ample ethical concerns, especially from pro-life advocates who would argue that human life begins at the moment of fertilization.


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