Scientists in Israel are now one step closer to growing human organs in a laboratory thanks to mouse embryos. They successfully grew synthetic mouse embryos without using sperm, eggs, or a womb. Instead, they used stem cells and an artificial womb. Fifty of the 10,000 trials were successful, with the longest lasting eight days into embryo development. Full mouse pregnancies usually last 20 days. Despite the failure rate, it’s a huge leap in the long process of optimizing stem cells to treat human diseases.
The peer-reviewed journal Cell published the data. The researchers from Weizmann Institute of Science are the same team that published designs for an artificial womb in 2021. They used the same device in this experiment. The mechanical womb setup is transparent so they can study and document every step of the process. It is also being further developed by Renewal Bio, a company co-founded by the lead author of the studies, Jacob Hanna.
According to the report we saw on DesignTAXI, Hanna’s first human test will be on himself. Or rather, he’ll donate some of his blood and skin cells to test the process. The team will study how those develop and whether they can be manipulated into different human tissues.
Mouse studies and embryo trials are nothing new in the medical field. Other companies are working on producing organs as spare parts, most of which use a form of 3D-printing. There are even “mini brains” that involve growing brain cells in a lab in order to study degenerative diseases. Scientists have successfully transplanted bio-printed human ears, but organs are a more complicated process. Though it sounds like science fiction, it could be a medical reality relatively soon.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.