Science has come a step closer to creating artificial embryos. Researchers of Salk Institute of the University of Texas, led by the Spanish scientist Juan Carlos Izpisúa, has managed to convert a single mouse ear cell In a complex structure. The achievement could, at first glance, seem like a small advance in research. But, according to experts argue, we are facing a turning point. We are now closer than ever to 'manufacture' organisms in which to investigate, for example, the effect of new medications or even the causes of a disease. New study models could, in fact, lead to endless research possibilities.
The research, published Wednesday in the scientific journal 'Cell', is presented to the scientific community as the first time that it is possible to create something an artificial embryo, also known as blastoid, without the need for gametes (ovules and sperm). It is about the union of first 100 cells of an organism, something that the researchers explain is key to understanding multiple biological processes such as the early stages of a pregnancy, the formation of organs or even the development of a certain disease.
"These studies will help us better understand the beginnings of life; how early in life a single cell can give rise to millions of cells and how they are assembled in space and time to give rise to a fully developed organism," explains Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a researcher at Salk's gene expression laboratory and lead author of this new study. "It is important to note that this work avoid the use of natural embryos and it is scalable, "says the researcher.
In the environment of a laboratory, you are artificial structures They have shown that they can function in the same way as their natural counterparts. Experts explain that blastocysts, a set of cells that can become an embryo once they are implanted in the uterus, are extremely difficult to obtain and study. But these, unlike those extracted from animal models, could be 'cultivated' in a laboratory and thus facilitate experimentation and the study process.
The blastoids obtained contained the same three types of primordial cells (where all the cells of an adult organism come from) found in their natural counterparts. They were also similar in size to natural blastocysts and showed a similar genetic signature. Other experiments indicated that blastoids could develop further in structures that resemble early embryos after implantation.
Blastoids, step by step
In this new study, researchers have managed to create these artificial embryos from adult cells extracted directly from the ears of laboratory mice. These cells, once removed, were placed in a chemical solution that led them to become pluripotent stem cells. That is, at a first step that could later allow them to be transformed into almost any type of tissue in the body.
Once this first step was achieved, the researchers placed these cells in a space culture environment in which they soon observed that connections were formed. This gave way to the cells starting to form structures similar to those that develop in the previous stage for a fertilized egg Become a blastoid.
Next, cell clusters began to form structures with an inner and outer layer differentiated by the accumulation of proteins. As in the natural formation, the outer cells began to activate a protein known as YAP, which entered the cell nucleus and began the process that could eventually induce protein expression to build what eventually could become a placenta.
The success of the research is, of course, partially qualified by some bad results. Artificially generated blastoids, unlike their natural counterparts, still they can't become in functional embryos. For now, all that has been achieved is disorganized tissue growth.
"With greater optimization, this technology could lead to the generation of fully functional blastoids capable of developing up to the stages in which different primary organs are formed and, therefore, being the organoid seeds that could be used as invaluable sources for organ transplantation, "Izpisúa speculates about the future applications of this finding.
. (tagsToTranslate) Experiments with animals (t) Science