Prof Munsie on modelling human development in a dish

Professor Megan Munsie discusses the publication of two papers in Nature today, which report different methods to produce human embryo-like structures in the lab.

For the first time researchers have been able to use stem cells and related reprogramming technology to create 3D structures that mimic the developing human blastocyst – a stage that is poorly understood.

These structures, referred to as blastoids, promise a new way to study how the cells at this very early stage of development interact - potentially leading to improvements in infertility treatments and ways to prevent pregnancy loss.

Professor Megan Munsie, Deputy Director of the School of Biomedical Sciences Centre for Stem Cell Systems, says: “While these models are similar, they should not be considered equivalent to human embryos created in an IVF lab. This distinction is important.

“Ethical and legal considerations are different. How and when they are used in research is likely to be different. However, for many in the community – hearing about these new discoveries for the first time – this may not be obvious.”

Prof Munsie welcomed the soon to be released International Society for Stem Cell Research updated guidelines that will specifically address the use of human embryo models and other advances in stem cell research.

Read the full papers in Nature: Modelling human blastocysts by reprogramming fibroblasts into iBlastoids. (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03372-y) and First complete model of the human embryo (DOI:10.1038/d41586-021-00581-3).

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