(ORDO NEWS) — Modern researchers have made very real the dream of their alchemist ancestors of an artificial man – a homunculus.
In fact, it has already peeked out from behind the horizon of science thanks to experiments being carried out by Israeli biologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, led by Jacob Hanna. For the first time in the world, they managed to grow fully synthetic embryos.
Until recently, it was believed that in order to create an embryo, it is first necessary to produce artificial eggs and spermatozoa, in order to then fertilize one with the other.
And then grow an embryo in the womb of a real woman. In such an almost natural way, for example, Americans from Stanford University (Stanford University in California) tried to move – they managed to grow both female and male germ cells from stem cells. But they abandoned this semi-fantastic occupation – viable embryos did not work out.
In Israel, they did without eggs, sperm, and without a womb. Embryos somehow mysteriously formed themselves from the grouped stem cells, some of which were pre-treated with chemistry and electricity.
The resulting embryos then grew up in a special unit that provided them with oxygen, blood and nutrients.
Let me remind you that embryonic – germ – cells are capable of transforming into cells of any organs and tissues. That is what attracts scientists.
It is in nature that the miracle of transformation takes place – the embryo gradually acquires everything necessary. Now this has been created in the laboratory, starting and continuing the process artificially.
In Israel, he experimented with mouse stem cells. Therefore, artificial embryos turned out to be mice. Developed up to eight and a half days. Quite a long time for such mammals – almost half the period of mouse pregnancy.
During this time, the “mouse homunculi” appeared – you will not believe – almost functioning internal organs. And the brain, and the heart, and the blood vessels, and the blood. And even the stomach with the intestines.
And the tail began to form. In a word, artificial mice gradually turned into real living creatures – at least in appearance.
Scientists are sure that the germinal organs would have developed into full-fledged ones if the process of transformation had not suddenly stopped – for reasons unknown so far.
Spontaneous formation of embryos is not very active either. Stem cells aggregate en masse into small spheres. But less than a percent of them become embryos.
The scientists reported their results recently in the journal Cell.
Individual repair kit
Experiments on mice will, of course, be continued until all circumstances are clarified. To avoid side effects. But biologists are already hatching far-reaching plans.
This same Jacob Hanna founded Renewal Bio, an Israeli startup, with the intention of creating already human homunculi in order to use their organs and tissues for transplantation into sick or decrepit patients.
“In order to renew humanity – to make it healthier and younger,” as the scientist himself puts it. And it attracts investment.
Let me explain, the fundamental idea of the Israelis is as follows: from human stem cells – each of us has them, even elderly people – to create a synthetic embryo.
Grow – approximately, to a term that corresponds to a 50-day human pregnancy. The next step is to remove organs from the fetus for transplantation.
Hanna thinks the fetal blood will come in handy as well. It is able to rejuvenate the immune system of the elderly.
For starters, scientists are going to use their own stem cells. But in the long term, if they really succeed, each patient will have to provide their own stem cells and acquire their own homunculus in order to get the most suitable body-compatible “repair kit”.
The idea is not new. But before, laws and morality always stood in its way. After all, it was all about people. Albeit not completely complete.
Israeli scientists believe that now they are unlikely to face serious legal and ethical problems. After all, the human embryos they want to create cannot be considered human – not even half-finished.
They will not be God’s creations. Although the production of artificial life – essentially clones – still require human stem cells. But that doesn’t count, they’re just blanks.
Scientists offer an alternative to a particularly impressionable public – they say, we will make genetic changes in cells.
And the embryos will turn out without brains and even without hearts. They will be deprived of those places in which the soul could nest. What is there to worry about then? The parts are just growing.
“No machine or 3D bioprinter can make better organs than an embryo,” says Hannah. We are only imitating nature.
And yet, somehow it hurts. Much more humane, perhaps, to grow organs suitable for transplantation in the body of pigs.
Or, indeed, rely on 3D bioprinting – 3D printing of organs from human tissue. Both technologies are developing successfully.
It is also hard to believe that by the 50-day period, which the specialists of the newly-minted company are talking about, organs suitable for transplantation will form in the embryo.
The term is too short, Russian experts believe, anonymously expressing their doubts. Until 100 days have passed, one can hardly count on anything.
What cunning in this sense is in store in Israel, it is not known. The scientific details of the innovators are still kept secret. We will watch.
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