Bioethics News

Destruction of human embryos for possible biomedical uses is permitted. Ethical assessment

It is often said that in scientific research, anything that can be done, will be done, regardless of its ethical connotations. This is what seems to have occurred in the light of an article published on 4th May this year in Nature (doi:10.1038/nature17948), entitled “Self-organisation of the in vitro attached human embryo“, authored by investigators at The Rockefeller University of New York and the University of Cambridge.

The article shows for the first time the cellular and molecular process of human embryonic development up to Day 14 of life of the embryo following fertilisation. It is also the first time that the process of implantation of the human embryo in the placenta has been successfully replicated in an experimental medium, i.e. outside the womb.

According to Science News of 4th May 2016, “this novel technique vastly expands the ability to answer basic questions about our own development, as well as to understand early pregnancy loss”.

As various embryology experts state in the same article, implantation of the embryo was a complete “black box”, which when opened, provides objective possibilities to better understand the blastocyst (the 60-200 cell embryo that implants in the placenta) and its biochemical environment.

Previous studies by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz and co-workers at the University of Cambridge had conducted similar experiments in mice. Now they are being carried out in humans.

As we have already mentioned, in this study it is particularly noted that the scientists have been able to develop an extrauterine system that mimics the human uterus, and which consequently allows us to better understand what happens during the implantation of human embryos.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.