Scientists Want to Grow Human Embryos and Kill Them to Harvest Their Organs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 29, 2022   |   9:01AM   |   Washington, DC

Frankenstein scientists are heading down a very questionable and troubling road all over the world with experiments that are leading to growing human embryos and killing those unique human begins to harvest their organs.

In one case, British scientists are creating mouse embryos in a lab without using sperm and eggs as in a traditional in-vitro fertilization setting. The researchers created a series of “model embryos” that include a functioning brain, beating heart, and the development of bodily organs.

Here’s more:

Scientists from the University of Cambridge have created model embryos from mouse stem cells that form a brain, a beating heart, and the foundations of all the other organs of the body. It represents a new avenue for recreating the first stages of life.

The team of researchers, led by Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, developed the embryo model without eggs or sperm. Instead, they used stem cells – the body’s master cells, which can develop into almost any cell type in the body.

By guiding the three types of stem cells found in early mammalian development to the point where they start interacting, the researchers mimicked natural processes in the lab. The scientists were able to get the stem cells to ‘talk’ to each other by inducing the expression of a particular set of genes and establishing a unique environment for their interactions.

In another case, Israeli scientists have created the world’s first “synthetic embryos”. They used mouse stem cells to create embryos, nurtured them in an artificial “womb”, and grew them for 8½ days – roughly the equivalent of three weeks of a human pregnancy.

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The mouse embryos developed beating hearts, flowing blood, intestinal tracts and cranial folds in the brain – even though they were created from scratch in a Petri dish.

But these experiments has significant ethical and pro-life concerns. As the conservative blog Hot Air noted:

The future potential of this sort of technology is clearly staggering, particularly in the field of transplant surgery, but there are ethical questions to be addressed as well. At least for now, however, we’re not talking about human embryos. These were all the embryos of laboratory mice.

These experiments may be achieving breakthroughs, but nobody is going to all of this trouble and expense to extend the lives of mice. This is all heading toward human organ development and transplants. There is still a rule in place saying that no experimentation should be done on human embryos, but scientists in China have already broken that rule repeatedly. (And that’s only the instances we’ve found out about.)

The real question and concern comes when scientists are developing brains along with organs to harvest — and the fact that unique human beings are created and killed for organs.

But my enthusiasm for these sorts of experiments becomes significantly dampened when we start talking about brains. Scientists have already created brain “organoids” in the laboratory that produced brain waves similar to those seen in prematurely born infants. A more recent experiment produced a human brain that began growing a pair of eyes and similarly seemed to be processing external information.

If the brain is producing brain waves and starting to process information, then it clearly appears to be something that at least resembles “thinking.” And a human brain capable of processing thoughts certainly sounds like it meets some of the basic definitions of what it means to be human. Do you have the right to flush that down the toilet and destroy it when your experiment is complete? If these scientists think they have easy answers to those questions, I would suggest they haven’t thought this through fully.

Michael Cook at BioEdge has similar concerns when it comes to the experiments in Israel.

Whether or not it is human is not his to decide. Even though the embryo has not been conceived naturally, it might grow into a human being if it were transferred into a womb.

At the moment scientists quoted in the media are insisting that “synthetic embryos” are definitely not embryos. As Australian stem cell scientist Megan Munsie wrote in The Conversation: “They replicate only some aspects of development, but not fully reproduce the cellular architecture and developmental potential of embryos derived after fertilisation of eggs by sperm – so-called natural embryos.”

But even if this is true, Dr Hanna’s ultimate goal seems to be to create “synthetic embryos” which are as close as possible to “natural embryos”. If they are not human initially, might they become human later on, as the field advances?

With so many unknowns, the need for regulation of this new technology is urgent.