Tipping Point Quick Hits (06.22.23)
A synthetic human embryo, a global CBDC platform, and secular Switzerland
Scientist Creates Synthetic Human Embryo
Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, working with labs at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Cambridge, announced earlier this month the creation of a synthetic human embryo using no eggs or sperm. The full details of this experiment have not been published, but apparently she used a human stem cell to create the embryo.
She announced the development at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, with the stipulation that these embryos—which are only a few days or weeks old—could “help researchers study the earliest stages of human development and explain pregnancy loss,” according to this article:
Stem cells have the capacity to become any cell-type in the body and if coaxed in just the right way can be persuaded to form embryos.
This is the first time that has been achieved using human material. Although, they are not truly “synthetic,” as the starting material was cells cultured from a traditional embryo in the laboratory.
“It’s beautiful and created entirely from embryonic stem cells,” Prof Zernicka-Goetz told The Guardian newspaper.
She has already developed synthetic mouse embryos with evidence of a developing brain and beating heart.
Zernicka-Goetz insists that her synthetic embryo isn’t technically a human embryo:
“I just wish to stress that they are not human embryos,” Zernicka-Goetz said. “They are embryo models, but they are very exciting because they are very looking similar to human embryos and very important path towards discovery of why so many pregnancies fail, as the majority of the pregnancies fail around the time of the development at which we build these embryo-like structures.”
Her creation may not have a beating heart or a brain, but the scientific community is already reacting with alarm about the morality and ethics of such experimentation. For instance, the United States doesn’t have any laws in place about the creation or treatment of synthetic embryos like this one:
“Unlike human embryos arising from in vitro fertilization (IVF), where there is an established legal framework, there are currently no clear regulations governing stem cell derived models of human embryos. There is an urgent need for regulations to provide a framework for the creation and use of stem cell derived models of human embryos,” James Briscoe, associate research director at the Francis Crick Institute, said in a statement.
Briscoe said the scientific community needed to “proceed cautiously, carefully and transparently” to avoid a public outcry.
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