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In a first, scientists create mice with cells from 2 males

China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-18 08:15

A fertile adult male mouse (right) is seen with his offspring and another adult mouse. KATSUHIKO HAYASHI/AP

Chevy Chase, Maryland — Scientists have created baby mice with two fathers for the first time by turning male mouse stem cells into female cells in a lab.

This raises the distant possibility of doing the same for people — although experts caution that very few mouse embryos were born alive and no one knows whether the same technique would work in human stem cells.

"It's a very clever strategy that's been developed for converting male stem cells to female stem cells," said Diana Laird, a stem cell and reproductive expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the research.

"It's an important step in both stem cell and reproductive biology."

Scientists described their work in a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

First, they took skin cells from the tails of male mice and transformed them into "induced pluripotent stem cells", which can develop into many different types of cells or tissues. Then, through a process that involved growing them and treating them with a drug, they converted male mouse stem cells into female cells and produced functional egg cells. Finally, they fertilized those eggs and implanted the embryos into female mice. About 1 percent of the embryos — 7 out of 630 — grew into live mouse pups.

The pups appeared to grow normally and were able to become parents themselves in the usual way, research leader and developmental biologist Katsuhiko Hayashi from Osaka University told fellow scientists at the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing last week.

'Revolutionary paper'

Nitzan Gonen, head of the sex determination laboratory at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, told Agence France-Presse that it was a "revolutionary paper", while cautioning that there was a long way to go.

In a commentary published alongside the Nature study, Laird and her colleague Jonathan Bayerl said the work "opens up new avenues in reproductive biology and fertility research" for animals and people. In the future, it might be possible to reproduce endangered mammals from a single male.

"And it might even provide a template for enabling more people" such as male same-sex couples "to have biological children, while circumventing the ethical and legal issues of donor eggs", they wrote.

The most notable caution they raised is that the technique is extremely inefficient. They said it is unclear why only a tiny fraction of the embryos placed into surrogate mice survived. They also stressed that it is still too early to know if the protocol would work in human stem cells at all.

Laird also said scientists need to be mindful of the mutations and errors that may be introduced in a culture dish before using stem cells to make eggs.

Agencies via Xinhua



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