British scientists grow human 'embryo' in lab using just stem cells

BRITISH scientists have grown a human “embryo” in a lab using just stem cells.

Experts say the major breakthrough will let them study the first stages of life to reveal causes of birth defects and infertility.

The lab created “baby blueprint” closely resembles a three-week old human embryo but it lacks cells needed to form a brain.

It can never be successfully implanted so allows researchers to avoid rules on such experiments.

It is illegal to let donated embryos develop beyond 14 days.

The advance is the first time scientists have been able to directly study human development at around three weeks — referred to as the “black box” period because they have been unable to study it before.

Experts think this is when many birth defects occur.

Cambridge University’s Dr Naomi Moris said: “This hugely exciting new model system will allow us to probe the processes of early human embryonic development in the lab.”

Fellow researcher Professor Alfonso Martinez-Ari said: “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.”

The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the Francis Crick Institute said it uses “human embryonic stem cells to mimic aspects of early human development”.

He added: “This is important, because there is much we don’t know about our beginnings.”

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, of Cambridge, said: “This is a highly important advance.”

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