Scientists have sustained human embryos in a petri dish for 13 days, shattering the previous record of nine days.
Two separate papers published this week, one in Nature and one in Nature Cell Biology, have reported culturing human embryos for nearly two weeks, going well beyond previous efforts.
There’s no reason to believe that the embryos couldn’t have survived beyond the two-week mark, but the experiment had to be halted to adhere to the internationally agreed 14-day limit on human embryo research.
“Implantation is a milestone in human development as it is from this stage onwards that the embryo really begins to take shape and the overall body plan are decided,” Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz-who led both studies-said in a statement.
“First, advances in technology have allowed the growth of embryos in a lab past the time which many scientists thought possible,” said University of California cellular biologist Peter Donovan, who wasn’t involved in the study.
At the 14-day mark, the embryo forms a structure called the “Primitive streak” that signifies the time when it has developed a discernable head and tail end.
The embryo is basically just a clump of cells that has the potential to split into multiple individuals.