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March 26, 2021

Researchers Suggest Experiments on Humans Embryos Grown in Artificial Wombs

photo credit: ZEISS Microscopy / Flickr
A group of Israeli researchers recently published research showing that they successfully grew mouse embryos in an artificial uterus for 12 days. The lead researcher on that experiment is suggesting that human embryos should be grown in similar wombs for research purposes.

Dr. Jacob Hanna, working for the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, led this team of researchers. He wrote that his experiments on mice could help scientists understand how miscarriages and gene mutations occur. Hanna also said that he would like to experiment on human embryos in the future.

“I do understand the difficulties. I understand. You are entering the domain of abortions,” Hanna told MIT Technology Review. “So I would advocate growing it [the human embryo] until day 40 and then disposing of it.”

Hanna says that tissue created from this practice could replace the tissue currently obtained by harvesting it from the bodies of aborted children. Ethically, however, this practice would not be much different. It can be argued that creating human beings specifically to harvest their tissues or organs is even worse than getting the tissue from aborted babies. The bodies of human beings should not be used as commodities.

“Once the guidelines are updated, I can apply, and it will be approved. It’s a very important experiment,” says Hanna, referring to a ban on conducting research on human embryos past 14 days of development. “We need to see human embryos gastrulate and form organs and start perturbing it. The benefit of growing human embryos to week three, week four, week five is invaluable. I think those experiments should at least be considered. If we can get to an advanced human embryo, we can learn so much.”

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