(Photo: Flickr)

(Photo: Flickr)

Amazing results have been reported in research on embryos.

For example, a report just months ago confirmed a woman in East Tennessee had delivered the longest-frozen embryo to successfully be birthed – 24 years.

Emma Wren was born to Benjamin and Tina Gibson, weighing 6 pounds, 8 ounces and measuring 20 inches long. Prior to being transferred into Tina’s uterus at the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Emma was cryopreserved for more than 24 years. Emma was frozen Oct. 14, 1992, and thawed by NEDC Lab Director Carol Sommerfelt March 13, 2017. Tina became pregnant with Emma as the result of a frozen embryo transfer performed by the medical director of the clinic, Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, two days later. Tina, 26, spent her pregnancy carrying an embryo conceived just 18 months after her own birth.

Also, just weeks before that, a “chemical surgery” was done on human embryos to remove disease in a world first. The team at Sun Yat-sen University used a technique called base editing to correct a single error out of the three billion “letters” of our genetic code. They altered lab-made embryos to remove the disease beta-thalassemia.

Now, researchers in the United Kingdom have succeeded in making embryos without either an egg or a sperm.

It’s one of the “10 Breakthrough Technologies” cited for 2018 in a report at Technology Review.

It redefines “how life can be created,” the report explains.

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“Embryologists working at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. have grown realistic-looking mouse embryos using only stem cells. No egg. No sperm. Just cells plucked from another embryo,” the report explains.

Researchers placed the cells in a “three-dimensional scaffold and watched” as they “started communicating and lining up into the distinctive bullet shape of a mouse embryo several days old.”

Magdelena Zernicka-Goetz headed the team, and said in the report, “We know that stem cells are magical in their powerful potential of what they can do. We did not realize they could self-organize so beautifully or perfectly.”

The “synthetic” embryos likely couldn’t have grown into mice, she explains, but still, “they’re a hint that soon we could have mammals born without an egg at all.”

Zernicka-Goetz just wanted to study how the cells of an early embryo begin taking on their specialized roles, the report explains.

“The next step, she says, is to make an artificial embryo out of human stem cells, work that’s being pursued at the University of Michigan and Rockefeller University,” the report said.

The up side? Scientists say they could be used with a full range of tools, such as gene editing.

But the negative is that they might “turn out to be indistinguishable from real embryos,” the report explains.

“How long can they be grown in the lab before they feel pain? We need to address those questions before the science races ahead much further, bioethicists say,” it notes.

There also have been reports of genetic tailoring, when researchers confirmed they developed sheep embryos containing human cells, and a new IVF method was tested that allows doctors to select the best eggs, increasing the likelihood of a baby being born by 25 percent.
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