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Proposed In Vitro Development Of Human Embryos Beyond 14 Days Faces Critical Reception

Growing human embryos in external experimental settings beyond two weeks have long been a center of controversy.

Some scientists back the practice advocating that growing an embryo beyond 14 days can provide critical insights into human development.

Proposed In Vitro Development Of Human Embryos Beyond 14 Days Faces Critical Reception

While few others don’t support the idea as that can lead to the development of sentient systems in the embryo.

Proposed In Vitro Development Of Human Embryos Beyond 14 Days Faces Critical Reception

Traditional practice

There was a scholastic rule adopted by the scientists that hindered them from growing embryos beyond two weeks. Rarely any scientist wanted to stretch the growth that long.

 However, two teams of researchers deviated from the tradition recently. 

They developed an embryo for 12 days in 2016 and a monkey embryo for 19 days in 2019.

These incidents have stimulated a debate among researchers in recent publications. 

There’s an opinion that the 14 days rule should be discarded or altered as growing an embryo up to 4 weeks can impart a lot of valuable insight.

The stance of the regulatory agencies

Guidelines for these scientific studies are framed by the Regulatory Committee of the international society of stem cell research. 

The committee has debated the issue for a long and a verdict is expected this month.

According to a few ethicists and scientists, modifying the rule may be convenient for research purposes, but it is ethically abominable.

Ethical advocacy behind the rule

Ben Hurlbut, historian of science at the Arizona State University, stated that if every rule is to be discarded when it hinders us, then very soon, the society will be devoid of laws.

Besides the current controversy, human embryo research at any stage is largely considered unethical.

Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a neuroscientist and director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, implies that such rules endorse the unethical utilization of science and exploit the vulnerable human progeny. 

Exceptions to the rule

Countries are not obliged to follow the rule like there is no such prevalence in the U.S., but scientists tend to abide by the regulations.

There are contrary views on fetal development. Certain cultural and religious belief holds that, life initiates with conception or that human embryos are special while others believe that occurs later in pregnancy or after birth.

Mammalian and reptilian embryos are routinely grown by researchers in laboratories, but it is not common for human embryos.

According to several scientists, the 14 days rule is adopted because the human embryo looks like a cluster of cells till two weeks.

The International Stem Cell Society committee is considering alteration of the rule. Robin Lovell-Badge, a member of the committee, stated that this rule had been adhered to for 30 years, and any changes in it will be critically perceived. 

He advocates stretching the time limit beyond two weeks for credible and socially acceptable researches.

This concept had widespread contrary reception, and achieving a mutual agreement has been challenging, as stated by Lovell-Badge.

The science behind the proposition

Insoo Hyun, a professor of bioethics at Case Western and Harvard University, supports the extension of the two weeks time frame.

According to Hyun, the two weeks following fertilization are vaguely studied, and not much is known about it.

Hyun is suggestive of a well-planned gradual stretching beyond two weeks with a clear foresight of the next step.

Anatomy of the fetus involved.

The cells or tissue used for this research is not obtained through terminated pregnancies until one-month pregnancy is undetected.

During the initial two weeks, the body’s plan is outlined. The central nervous system and brain development along with the cells that will mature to sperms or eggs. The placenta also forms at this time.

The span between the 2nd to 4th week of pregnancy is a crucial period, and abnormalities can arise at this point.

Researches during this period can provide valuable information for scientific and medical fields, including treatment for the unborn child.

However, such extension in embryo research is still not accepted by all.

Henry Greely, director of the Stanford Center for Law and the Bioscience at the Stanford University, strictly advocates a limiting point for embryo research and considers it highly distressing.

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