BREAKTHROUGH: Israelis take giant leap toward creating human embryos

An Israeli team recently discovered how to turn skin cells into stem cells, “paving the way to create whole embryos.”

By World Israel News Staff

While it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, researchers in Israel recently made major discoveries related to stem cell growth that are leading to the creation of entire human embryos outside the body, without the need for sperm and eggs.

The team responsible for these discoveries, which is led by Dr. Yossi Buganim at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), published its breakthrough in one of the top peer-reviewed journals in the field, Cell Stem Cell.

At the heart of this breakthrough is a method “to transform skin cells into the three major stem cell types that comprise early-stage embryos,” according to a statement released by HU summarizing the Cell Stem Cell article.

The team explained that this method could “solv[e] certain infertility problems” and “pav[es] the way to create whole embryos from skin cells” in “a petri dish,” separate from the human body.

In addition to opening up new horizons for embryonic growth, the HU team’s discoveries also may significantly improve our current understanding of diseases and dysfunctions that occur during pregnancy, leading to new treatments and eliminating major fertility challenges.

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While the Israeli researchers’ breakthrough is related to previous discoveries made in Japan that permit scientists to reprogram cells into embryonic cells, the HU team succeeded in reprogramming cells to develop into extra-embryonic tissues, such as the placenta and umbilical cord, which their Japanese counterparts failed to do.

Unlike a recent attempt to develop a mouse embryo without sperm and egg, which relied on cells from an actual developing embryo, the HU team is the first to create all three main stem cell lines required to create an embryo using only skin cells.

By using only skin cells, the team has eliminated the need to use cells from a live embryo to create a separate “test tube” embryo.

In addition to Dr. Buganim, the team was led by Dr. Oren Ram and Professor Tommy Kaplan, with doctoral students Mohammad Jaber and Hani Benchetrit playing a key role in the research.