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Scientists hail ‘holy grail’ of life as mice embryos made without sperm or eggs

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Scientists have grown mouse embryos with working hearts and brains without using sperm or eggs.

Boffins have described it as the “holy grail” of creating life in a lab after using blank stem cells to grow the embryos.

After growing the embryos for eight-and-a-half days, like a natural pregnancy, they developed beating hearts and fully formed brains.

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The Cambridge University scientists who created the embryos hope they will help them study the brain in pregnancy without using live animals and it could reveal why humans miscarry early, they reported in the journal Nature.

The team say their results, the result of more than a decade of research that progressively led to more and more complex embryo-like structures, could help researchers understand why some embryos fail while others go on to develop into a healthy pregnancy.

Additionally, the results could be used to guide repair and development of synthetic human organs for transplantation.

Study leader Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz called the work “complex and beautiful”.

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She said: “This not only develops a brain, but also a beating heart and all the components that go on to make up the body.

“It’s just unbelievable that we’ve got this far.”

Prof David Glover, of the California Institute of Technology, called it the first demonstration of the development of the forebrain.

He said: “That’s been a sort of holy grail for the field.”

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