By James Pero For Dailymail.com
Published: 00:14 BST, 12 September 2019 | Updated: 00:22 BST, 12 September 2019
Scientists say they've designed a device that can manufacture a kind of basic human embryo with speed and efficiency.
In a paper published in the journal Nature, American biologists describe a method capable of churning out embryoids -- a type of synthetic, albeit primitive, embryo -- at rates previously unseen.
Using stem cells, the researchers say they're able to create relatively large numbers of the structures which mimic the early stages of human development.
Though embryoids have been produced in other lab settings, the new method -- which scientists insist will not lead to the creation of an actual embryo -- represents a marked improvement in the efficiency with which they're formed according the scientists.
A new method of making synthetic embryo-like structures has stoked concern from some bioethicists who fear it could pave the way for lab-grown humans
'This new system allows us to achieve a superior efficiency to generate these human embryo-like structures,' Jianping Fu, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who led the research, told NPR.
With greater ease and number of the structures, scientists say they could advance science surrounding embryonic development and further hone procedures such as in vitro fertilization, where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body and then implanted once developed more fully.
Additionally, they say the structures could be used to help test the effects of pharmaceutical drugs on pregnant women.
According to NPR, the device -- a silicone square adjoined to a plate that contains walls and a narrow channel -- is capable of producing about a dozen embryoids in a few days.
With multiple machines operating at once, researchers say they are able to create hundreds of embryoids in the same time period.
Unlike other research involving the use of human embryos, the embryoids don't come with the same ethical guidelines, namely the stipulation that, after 14 days of development, scientists may no longer study them.
This means that the structures could be studied longer and more thoroughly.
Embryos like the one pictured above have much more stringent standards on when and how long they can be studied compared to the synthetic embryoids.
While the method may be an invaluable tool for studying early stages of embryonic