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Scientists Take Step Toward Creating Artificial Embryos

Experts said the results suggested human embryos could be created in a similar way in future — a step that would allow scientists to use artificial embryos rather than real ones to research the very earliest stages of human development

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FILE - An embryologist demonstrates fertilization techniques at a clinic in New York, Oct. 3, 2013. In work published Monday, scientists moved closer to creating artificial embryos. (VOA)

An international team of scientists has moved closer to creating artificial embryos after using mouse stem cells to make structures capable of taking a crucial step in the development of life.

Experts said the results suggested human embryos could be created in a similar way in future — a step that would allow scientists to use artificial embryos rather than real ones to research the very earliest stages of human development.

The team, led by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a professor at Britain’s Cambridge University, had previously created a simpler structure resembling a mouse embryo in a lab dish. That work involved two types of stem cells and a three-dimensional scaffold on which they could grow.

But in new work published Monday in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the scientists developed the structures further — using three types of stem cells — enabling a process called gastrulation, an essential step in which embryonic cells begin self-organizing into a correct structure for an embryo to form.

“Our artificial embryos underwent the most important event in life in the culture dish,” Zernicka-Goetz said in a statement about the work. “They are now extremely close to real embryos.”

embryo-cells
The early stages of embryo development are when a large proportion of pregnancies are lost and yet it is a stage that scientists know very little about.

She said the team should now be better able to understand how the three stem cell types interact to enable embryo development. And by experimentally altering biological pathways in one cell type, they should be able to see how this affects the behavior of the other cell types.

“The early stages of embryo development are when a large proportion of pregnancies are lost and yet it is a stage that we know very little about,” said Zernicka-Goetz.

“Now we have a way of simulating embryonic development in the culture dish, so it should be possible to understand exactly what is going on during this remarkable period in an embryo’s life, and why sometimes this process fails.”

Also Read: Scientists in US Successfully Edit Genes of Human Embryos in the First Attempt

Christophe Galichet, a senior research scientist at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute who was not directly involved in this work, agreed that the results held promise.

“While [this study] did not use human stem cells, it is not too far-fetched to think the technique could one day be applied to studying early human embryos,” he said in an emailed comment. “These self-assembled human embryos would be an invaluable tool to understand early human development.” (VOA)

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Scientists Found Earth’s Oldest Rock on Moon

The final impact event to affect this sample occurred about 26 million years ago, when an impacting asteroid hit the Moon

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Analysis of lunar samples from the Apollo 14 mission shows that a large impacting asteroid or comet hurtled a piece of Earth rock, about 4 billion years ago, on to the Moon’s surface.

An international team of scientists led by NASA’s Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE), found evidence that the impact jettisoned material through Earth’s primitive atmosphere, into space, where it collided with the surface of the Moon (which was three times closer to Earth than it is now) about 4 billion years ago.

The rock was subsequently mixed with other lunar surface materials into one sample.

The 2 gram fragment of rock was composed of quartz, feldspar, and zircon — all commonly found on Earth and highly unusual on the Moon.

Earth depletion
Earth depletion, Pixabay

“It is an extraordinary find that helps paint a better picture of early Earth and the bombardment that modified our planet during the dawn of life,” said David A. Kring, Principal Investigator at CLSE.

It is possible that the sample is not of terrestrial origin, but instead crystallised on the Moon.

That would, however, require the sample to have formed at tremendous depths, in the lunar mantle, where very different rock compositions are anticipated and in the reducing and higher temperature conditions characteristic of the Moon.

But chemical analysis of the rock fragment shows it crystallised in a terrestrial-like oxidised system, at terrestrial temperatures, according to research published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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Earth’s oldest known evolved rocks result of asteroids. Pixabay

Further, the researchers revealed that the rock crystallised about 20 kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface 4-4.1 billion years ago. It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into cislunar space.

Once the sample reached the lunar surface, it was affected by several other impact events, one of which partially melted it 3.9 billion years ago, and which probably buried it beneath the surface.

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The sample is therefore a relic of an intense period of bombardment that shaped the solar system during the first billion years. After that period, the Moon was affected by smaller and less frequent impact events.

The final impact event to affect this sample occurred about 26 million years ago, when an impacting asteroid hit the Moon, producing the small 340 meter-diameter Cone Crater, and excavating the sample back onto the lunar surface where astronauts collected it almost exactly 48 years ago (January 31-February 6, 1971), Kring explained. (IANS)