Azim Surani (Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute) discusses gene editing of the human germline.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge working with the Weizmann Institute have created primordial germ cells – cells that will go on to become egg and sperm – using human embryonic stem cells. Although this had already been done using rodent stem cells, the study, published today in the journal Cell, is the first time this has been achieved efficiently using human stem cells.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have managed to reconstruct the early stage of mammalian development using embryonic stem cells, showing that a critical mass of cells – not too few, but not too many – is needed for the cells to being self-organising into the correct structure for an embryo to form.
In the earliest moments of a mammal’s life, the developing ball of cells formed shortly after fertilisation ‘does as mother says’ – it follows a course that has been pre-programmed in the egg by the mother. Extraordinary as this is, what happens then is even more remarkable.
Human stem cell research holds promise for combating some of the most recalcitrant of diseases and for regenerating damaged bodies. It is also an ethical, legal and political minefield.
Today, we commence a month-long focus on research on stem cells. To begin, Professors Austin Smith and Robin Franklin discuss how Cambridge scientists are helping to provide a stream of new knowledge about how our bodies are made and maintained, and how stem cells can fulfil the promise of being one of medical research’s great hopes.
Stem cells – the body’s master cells – demonstrate a bizarre property never before seen at a cellular level, according to a study published today from scientists at the University of Cambridge.