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Weekly reads: AL embryos ruling, blasting cancer, marrow organoids, beef inside rice plants – The Niche

Are small clusters of cells that make up 5-day-old human embryos equivalent to children?

Biologically and in terms of just common sense, the answer is “no.” These tiny spheres have around 100 cells and no organs. Actual people have many trillions of cells, brains, and other organs.

Alabama law on embryos may block IVF

About the only thing these microscopic embryos have in common with people is the DNA is human and the cells are human. While it is true that sometimes very early embryos can grow into people, that is not always the case. Also, they must implant into the uterus for that.

Still, there are people who believe even a one-cell human embryo is a human and some states are pushing in that direction. An Alabama court ruling that early embryos are people could put a chill both on IVF as well as some important research. Let’s start there with our weekly review of the stem cell and regenerative space.

human embryos, stem cells
Photomicrograph of early human embryo development. An arrow in the inset higher magnification view of the hatched blastocyst (breaking out of the zona pellucida) indicates the inner cell mass (ICM) that can produce embryonic stem cells when cultured. Photos courtesy of Meri Firpo.

Frozen embryos are children, Ala. high court says in unprecedented ruling, WaPo. The main effect of this ruling is that IVF and embryo research in AL may screech to a halt.  Some IVF clinics there are already stopping procedures. How can you do IVF if the embryos are already considered children by your state and if any of the embryos don’t make it, you could be in legal trouble?

This news has possible implications for stem cell research too, although that seems relatively less likely. Many may not remember, but it wasn’t so long ago that federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research was illegal for a time in the US.

I generally do not comment on political issues on The Niche. However, it is interesting that the Republican Party has pushed for extreme positions that impact science and medicine, yet now after the Alabama ruling hitting IVF, leaders of the party are distancing themselves from that.

More stem cell & regenerative reads