The ethic of stem cell-based embryo models

Blastoids are scientific models that are used in the lab to answer biological and biomedical questions. Because they are formed solely from stem cells, they alleviate the use of embryos, while opening unique possibilities (high-throughput screens, genetic engineering) that are the basis of biomedical discoveries. Thus, blastoids allow to investigate in the lab previously untouchable scientific questions, while proposing ethical alternatives to the use of embryos for research.


Blastoids are not considered as legally equivalent to blastocysts, in part due to their limited capacity to develop in utero. But they also question the current ethical status quo. What should their legal and ethical status be in the future as they are refined? Do the probable insights they provide outweigh possible ethical concerns?

We are contributing to an international discussion to guide this research, which involves ethicists, philosophers, lawyers, and international scientific societies. Our goal is to propose a clear framework for stem cell-based embryo models. For example, we advice regulators to encourage their use as in vitro scientific models while banning their use for reproductive purposes. We stated our propositions in several publications that serve as a basis for further discussions.

For more details, please read the following articles:

Debate ethics of embryo models from stem cells. Nature. 2018 Dec;564(7735):183-185. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07663-9. Rivron N, Pera M, Rossant J, Martinez Arias A, Zernicka-Goetz M, Fu J, van den Brink S, Bredenoord A, Dondorp W, de Wert G, Hyun I, Munsie M, Isasi R.

Toward Guidelines for Research on Human Embryo Models Formed From Stem Cells. Stem Cell Reports. 2020 Feb 11;14(2):169-174. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2019.12.008. Insoo Hyun, Megan Munsie, Martin F Pera, Nicolas C Rivron, Janet Rossant

©2017 by Nicolas Rivron Lab.