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New synthetic mouse embryos grown in lab

Study bolsters value of mock embryos for modeling development

photo of two embryos side by side
Gianluca Amadei and Charlotte Handford

Researchers have created a new batch of ersatz embryos that may help them delve deeper into early development. Earlier this month, a team reported that by mixing three types of mouse embryonic stem cells, it had produced so-called embryoids that replicate the first 8.5 days of the animals’ development. Using a similar recipe, another group has now generated mouse embryoids (bottom) that closely resemble genuine embryos (top). The embryoids featured rudimentary muscles, a burgeoning brain, and “the beginnings of … a beating heart,” New Scientist reveals. The new study, reported this week in Nature, added a twist by including stem cells that lack a key gene, suggesting genetically tweaked embryoids could help researchers probe how certain genes shape development.

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