This is a world first: a team of researchers announces that for the very first time they have succeeded in growing an artificial mouse embryo in a petri dish from simple stem cells.
Like all of us, researchers have long sought to understand what “life” is. Some would also like to create it. The creation of a first « synthetic » cell in 2010 had already paved the way, but a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge has just taken a step further by successfully creating an artificial mouse embryo in the laboratory using two types of stem cells that assembled and organized spontaneously before the eyes of researchers. A first that could lead researchers to solve some of the great mysteries that still hang over the beginnings of life, but which could also answer many open questions such as the mechanisms at the origin of many diseases, the causes of male infertility or the fact that nine out of ten embryos fail to take root in the uterus.
The stem cells here were grown outside the body in a drop of gel and were able to develop into several internal organs at an early stage like in a normal embryo. To achieve this feat, the scientists used two types of stem cells, these famous key elementary blocks at the origin of biological life which have the particularity of multiplying ad infinitum and being able to transform into any cell. specialized. The researchers then detail having pooled embryonic stem cells with extraembryonic trophoblast stem cells which are also essential for the proper development of the embryo (the latter are used to form the placenta). They then used a third type of cell that specializes in setting up the scaffolding on which the embryo develops. Once brought into contact, all these cells began to “talk” to each other and then organized themselves into a three-dimensional structure. Little by little, these cells multiplied and in fine, an artificial embryo was born.
The great novelty of this study is that the stem cells have developed in exactly the same way and in the right place as in the uterus with in particular the formation of germ cells intended to become eggs and sperm and the amniotic cavity in which the embryo develops. The 3D structure will have allowed the researchers to observe not only the cells themselves, but also how they are influenced by the position they occupy.
Beyond the prowess, this discovery could therefore make it possible to better understand the very first stages of life. Because if we understand very well how an ovum and a spermatozoon merge into an egg cell and how the embryo develops once it is attached to the uterus, the few days between these two phenomena still remain mysterious and raise many questions. The authors also specify that they want to soon test the process with human stem cells to create artificial human embryos.