They stressed that their work is only for research, not reproduction, but it likely will pose new ethical questions.
“Studying early human development is really difficult. It’s basically a black box,” said Jun Wu, a stem cell biologist at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center.
“We believe our model can open up this field,” he said, if “you can test your hypothesis without using human embryos.”
Wu’s team used embryonic stem cells and the second team used reprogrammed skin cells to produce balls of cells that resemble one of the earliest stages of human development.
These balls, called blastocysts, form a few days after an egg has been fertilized but before the cells attach to the uterus to become an embryo. To differentiate their models from blastocysts created through fertilization, the researchers refer to the structures as “iBlastoids” and “human blastoids.”
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