Researchers have re-programmed cells to act like blastocysts to better model early human development, New Scientist reports.
It notes that most studies previously relied on blastocysts from in vitro fertilization procedures. Two papers appearing in Nature, though, describe their development of human blastoids that from fibroblast or pluripotent stem cells.
Researchers led by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's Jun Wu, for instance, used a three-dimensional culturing approach to grow naïve human pluripotent stem cells into what they termed human blastoids that resemble human blastocysts on the morphology, cellular makeup, and transcriptomic levels. Similarly, Monash University's Jose Polo and his colleagues re-programmed human skin fibroblast cells into induced pluripotent stem cells that they then grew into what they have dubbed iBlastoids.
Experts tell The Scientist that these new models, although not perfect, could help address questions regarding fertility, pregnancy loss, and development. Blastoids also could avoid the ethical conundrum of relying on human embryos for such studies — in many countries, human embryos cannot be cultured in the lab for more than 14 days, according to New Scientist.
Science notes that the researchers from these and two other, similar projects abided by that 14-day rule. The University of California, San Francisco's Susan Fisher tells it that how the public will respond to these blastoids is not clear. "It's a test case for how scientists and lay people feel about a collection of cells," she adds.