Researchers grow human embryos in lab up to 13 days old

Researchers have broken the record for growing human embryos in a laboratory, prompting a lament in the Vatican’s newspaper.

Two teams of researchers in the United Kingdom and the United States grew embryos until they were 13 days old.

The embryos were kept alive and active beyond the stage when they would naturally implant in a mother’s womb

The longest that human embryos had previously been grown in the lab was nine days.

The latest research comes close to the 14-day limit for growing donated embryos that is long-established in law in many countries.

After the 14-day point, such laws usually state that the embryos must be destroyed.

In response to the latest research, L’Osservatore Romano published a front-page article in its May 10 edition by bioethicist Laura Palazzani.

The bioethicist lamented the use of human embryos as “guinea pigs of progress”.

Arguing that the 14-day limit is arbitrary, Palazzani said that some researchers could find pretexts for far later limits, whether prenatal or postnatal.

All human beings are in a state continuous development from the moment of fertilisation, she continued, and embryos of whatever stage, without expressing consent, are being “destined to death” for the sake of scientific research.

The 14-day stage marks the point when the individuality of an embryo is assured, because it can no longer split into twins.

At about the same time, embryo forms what is called the “primitive streak”, a faint band of cells that starts to distinguish the head from the tail.

Introduced in Britain 30 years ago, the 14-day rule aimed to give scientists room to study human embryos, while respecting wider views on embryo research.

Some scientists have called for an end to the 14 day limit in many countries.


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