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Babbage from The Economist

Babbage: The promise (and problems) of embryo models

Exactly how humans grow from a single cell in the womb is shrouded in mystery. To uncover the secrets, scientists need to watch human embryos as they develop, but these are hard to come by for research purposes and strict regulation restricts their use. So scientists have come up with an alternative tool: model embryos grown in the lab from stem cells. These “embryoids” have proven invaluable to medical researchers in recent years, but rapid advances in their technology mean that embryoids are becoming increasingly similar to real human embryos. Very soon, some embryoids could become indistinguishable from real embryos. How can scientists navigate this ethical grey area and work out—with public input—how these models should be used?


Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: The Economist’s Emilie Steinmark; Berna Sozen, a reproductive scientist at Yale School of Medicine; Kirstin Matthews, a biologist and science policy researcher at Rice University.


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