Scientists have managed to get monkey embryos to develop after an injection of human stem cells. A new milestone in a rapidly evolving area that raises ethical questions. That writes Nature.
A team of scientists injected monkey embryos with human stem cells and watched them develop. They watched human and monkey cells divide and grow together in a petri dish.
At least three embryos survived up to 19 days after fertilization. The research was published in the academic journal Cell.
“Each embryo contained human cells that proliferate and differentiate to varying degrees,” said Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a developmental biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and one of the researchers who led the work.
The researchers fertilized eggs from Java monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Six days after fertilization, the team injected 132 embryos with human elongated pluripotent stem cells, which can grow into a range of cell types inside and outside an embryo.
The embryos each developed unique combinations of human and monkey cells and deteriorated at varying rates: eleven days after fertilization, 91 were alive, this decreased to 12 embryos at day seventeen and 3 embryos at day nineteen.
Ethicists wonder about combining human cells with closely related primate embryos. “ Some people see you creating morally ambiguous entities, ” says Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Nature.
He does say that the research team has adhered thoroughly to existing guidelines. “I think they have taken a lot of care in complying with regulations and ethical issues.”
The ultimate goal of this research would be to create human organs that can be transplanted. (mah)