For the first time, scientists grew an embryo in a lab using only stem cells no sperm or eggs required.
The mouse embryos weren’t perfect, according to One Zero, and none of them developed into a living, breathing, lab-grown mice.
But the embryo-like blobs of stem cells that were implanted into a mouse’s womb did start to develop along the lines of how a typical fetus might.
The lab-grown embryos developed into structures resembling the early stages of development but also had structural glitches like poorly organized tissues, according to the research, which was published in the journal Cell on Thursday.
It remains unclear whether those defects are caused by the lack of some unidentified compound only found in a sperm or egg cell or by the fact that this is a nascent field of science that will have to work out the kinks with further experimentation.
This experiment is the first time artificial embryos have started to develop into fetal tissue in a uterus.
Other groups have made artificial mouse embryos from stem cells but they haven’t successfully implanted or have only been able to form placental cells but not the other cell types once implanted.
But all the same, the study hints at a future in which sex cells are no longer required to create living organisms.
“Although it stays as a science fiction at this stage, it’ll be fantastic if we can achieve the goal of generating viable embryos without sperm or eggs in the future,” Eli Adashi, who didn’t work on the new study and who used to be the dean of biomedical sciences at Brown University, told One Zero.
They said, “But there is still a long way to go since there are still a lot of unknowns during early development.” But the researchers weren’t trying to bring the end of sex.