Teams of scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Netherlands-based Hubrecht Institute have developed a ‘blueprint’ for the human embryo by using stem cells. The researchers are optimistic that crucial insights could emerge regarding the early stages of infant development.
Whether we like to admit it or not, the human body is still mostly an enigma to science. Nobody could mimic the human DNA, the set of instructions for building each individual, as it’s far more complex than we can imagine. Therefore, learning new things about the human body is always welcomed, and we’ll probably learn forever.
The model resembles an embryo between 18 and 21 days old
The team of researchers claims that their model resembles an embryo that’s only between 18 and 21 days old, which means around the same time as gastrulation emerges. For those unaware, gastrulation means when three distinct layers of cells emerge in the embryo to later give rise to the three main systems within the body: musculoskeletal, nervous, and digestive.
Lead author of the study, Alfonso Martinez-Arias from Cambridge’s Department of Genetics, declared:
“Our model produces part of the blueprint of a human,”
“It’s exciting to witness the developmental processes that until now have been hidden from view – and from study.”
A better understanding of gastrulation could improve our understanding of issues like miscarriage, genetic disorders, and infertility. The scientists were able to observe almost 72 hours of the models’ development and detect clear signs of the formation of muscles, bone, and cartilage.
Stem cells are special cells within the human body that have the possibility to develop into many different cell types. There can be muscle cells, brain cells, and so on. When it comes to stem cell transplants, stem cells are replacing cells damaged by chemotherapy or disease or serve as a way for the immune system of the donor to fight various types of cancer and blood-related diseases.
The study led by Alfonso Martinez-Arias was published in Nature.