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A guideline change may allow researchers to grow human embryos for a longer period of time in the lab, according to the Associated Press.

Previously, decades-old guidelines required researchers to destroy lab-grown human embryos before they reached 14 days old, but the Crick Institute's Robin Lovell-Badge tells the AP that this standard is arbitrary and has meant that researchers are unable to study key developmental processes. "We think a lot of congenital abnormalities are developing quite early during this period," Lovell-Badge, who chaired the committee that developed the new International Society for Stem Cell Research guidelines, adds. "By understanding these early stages better, it might allow us to adopt simple procedures to reduce the amount of suffering."

In its update, ISSCR says that human embryos could be grown for longer on a case-by-case basis, Nature News reports. The AP notes that in some spots like the UK and Australia the 14-day rule has been codified into law and those laws would also have to be changed to grow embryos beyond that point.

The ISSCR guidelines additionally provide guidance on the culturing of organoids and chimeric embryos, and prohibit germline genome editing, the Scientist adds.