Science 2 min read

Researchers Create Embryonic Cells Using Skin Cells in Mice

Hebrew University researchers were able to create the first embryonic cells from the skin cells of mice. This stem cell breakthrough could have significant implications for modeling diseases in placentas and embryos.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Researchers at the Hebrew University (HU) of Jerusalem have managed to transform skin cells in mice into embryonic cells.

Dr. Yossi Buganim and his team discovered a set of genes that could transform murine skin cells into three of the cell types that comprise the embryo. These include the embryo itself, the placenta, and extraembryonic tissues such as umbilical cord.

This is huge!

Aside from eliminating the use of gametes for reproduction in humans, the discovery has other significant implications. For example, it enables researchers model embryonic defect, while also providing a better understanding of placental dysfunction.

Also, we can create embryos in Petri dishes to solve human infertility problems.

Creating Embryonic Cells from Skin Cells; How it Began

Back in 2006, some Japanese researchers discovered the skin cell’s capacity to be reprogrammed into early embryonic cells. It could express four central embryonic genes to generate an entire fetus.

Since these reprogrammed skin cells – termed Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells – are identical to the natural counterparts, they can develop into all fetal cell types.

But, there was one small limitation.

At the time, the researchers could not reprogramme the skin cells into extraembryonic tissues, such as placenta. Well, not anymore.

Now the research team at Hebrew University have uncovered a combination of five genes that does just that.

Alongside reprogramming skin cells into IPS cells which create fetuses and placental stem cells, the genes also enable the development of extraembryonic tissues for the umbilical cord.

Furthermore, the transformation takes only about a month.

The researchers introduced the five genes into the skin cells and observed how the natural process of embryonic development began.

The skin cells first lose their identity in the first stage, before slowly acquiring a new one. They take on the characters of the three early embryonic cell types.

Eventually, the genome structure and function inside the cell changes to reflect this new identity.

The implication of the Study

While previous researchers have created an entire mouse embryo without using gametes, they used the first three cell types isolated from a developing embryo.

The researchers at Hebrew University are the first to create all three primary embryonic cells from skin cells. Using this same technique, we may be able to create a human without sperm or egg in the distant future.

Read More: Chinese Geneticist Claims to Have Gene Edited Human Embryos

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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