A Japanese researcher has announced that he has created viable eggs from the cells of male mice.
This is the first lab created for mammalian eggs from male cells. The next step – not an easy one – would be to pursue something similar to human cells, where, among other things, there is a risk of causing unwanted genetic changes.
The research, which is still in its infancy, relates to the conversion of male XY chromosomes into female XX. This development clears the way for male couples to have their own children no longer through adoption.
The announcement was made by Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi of Osaka University, who has an international reputation in his field of specialization, at a conference of the Francis Crick Institute of Genetics in London, according to the BBC and the Guardian newspaper. Other scientists sounded wary. Professor George Daly of Harvard Medical School, USA, pointed out that it will be a long time before society is faced with practical selection of children from two parents.
Hayashi himself has stated that his work is at a very early stage. The eggs he created are of low quality and the technique cannot currently be used safely on humans. However, he expressed optimism that the current difficulties might be overcome within ten years and that reproductive technology for same-sex couples would eventually become available.
The Japanese scientist said: “If people want it, and society accepts such technology, then I agree.” However, he seemed hesitant about the method a man would use to artificially create a child from his own sperm and eggs. “It’s technically possible,” he said. “But I’m not sure if it’s a safe or socially acceptable thing to do at this point.”
The method involves taking a skin cell from a male rodent and turning it into a pluripotent stem cell that can transform into other types of cells. These cells like males have XY chromosomes. The researchers then deleted the Y chromosome of these cells, doubled the X and finally “glued” the two Xs together, allowing the stem cell to be reprogrammed to become an egg.
The cells are then grown into an ovarian organoid that mimics mouse ovarian conditions. When the eggs were fertilized with sperm, 600 embryos were created, of which seven mice were eventually born (a low success rate of about 1%). However, these rodents appeared healthy, had a normal lifespan, and had offspring.
This technique can also help infertile heterosexual couples where the woman is unable to produce her own eggs due to a serious problem such as Turner syndrome (in which one copy of the X chromosome is missing). But it will be years until (and if) this new infertility treatment becomes available. Other scientists consider the decade time horizon overly optimistic, given that viable human eggs from female cells have not yet been created in the laboratory.
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