It’s not magic. We start with immature stem cells, with all the information encoded in them, and we put them in conditions that are not very special: we give them nutrition and gas, and we make them work to make sure they don’t get. attached to each other. If you feed them, don’t drown them, and keep them from getting trapped, then they will release their potential on their own.
“The differences in human embryos are still huge. I don’t consider them abnormal embryos.”
What do you think of the expression ‘synthetic embryo’?
The field moves away from that expression because it seems to imply that these cells are not meant to become embryos. An alternative expression, ’embryo model’, has been suggested. The problem with this is that almost anything can be suggested as an embryo model. The work of Magdalena Żernicka-Goetz (a scientist competing with Hanna for the paternity of synthetic embryos) has nothing in common with an embryo.
“It is impossible to give birth at nine months of pregnancy outside the uterus.”
Are your artifacts human or not?
The differences in human embryos are still enormous. I don’t think of them as abnormal embryos. If we develop them up to the 21st or 22nd, we see that there are many differences. I prefer to call them structured embryo-like entities. The difference may be reduced in the future, but it will last for many years. Or it cannot be reduced; it is not a solvable technical issue but an insurmountable difference.
“We will not close the investigation on the subject for fear that someone will use it.”
Are you trying to achieve an ectopic pregnancy?
This is not our goal, and I believe it cannot be done. Giving birth at nine months of pregnancy outside the womb is impossible. How big can I imagine we reached at 60 or 70 people?
So, what do you want?
In the early stages of development, many pregnancies fail, and many developmental disorders occur. Currently, experiments are not possible at that stage. Embryonic material from abortions can be retrieved, but not enough to cover the hundreds of thousands of mouse embryos we can study. Another goal is to create tissues (from synthetic embryos), such as eggs, for infertile women. This is the main productivity application. In no case are we trying to change the pregnancy.
What ethical limitations should this research have?
You have to trust the regulations. We cannot shut down research on the subject for fear that someone will misuse it, in the same way that we cannot shut down research on viruses or nuclear physics because of their potential military use. Even in the case where a synthetic embryo is the same as a natural embryo, we have to think about the applications. If an adult is about to die because they can’t find a bone marrow donor, is it okay to take a cell from their skin, create a 50-day-old embryo, and take the tissues that could save their life? I don’t think a 50-day embryo suffers pain or has cognition. In addition, we can introduce a genetic modification to the embryo so that it does not develop a brain or a heart, so that it does not become a human being. We are still far from these scenarios. There’s no need to panic, but it’s okay to start the discussion early.