In A First, Healthy Mice Born From Same-sex Parents

In A First, Healthy Mice Born From Same-sex Parents

The pups grew to adulthood and even went on to have normal offspring of their own, scientists announced today in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

"Sorry, chaps, you're obsolete": that may as well have been the headline of an announcement that gripped the research community on Thursday, as the birth was revealed of the world's first mammal born to two mothers.

"Most people accept that genetically engineering humans is morally unconscionable, and doing the same thing to mice using stem-cell technology is just as reprehensible - it will not solve reproductive problems but will lead to misery for intelligent, sensitive beings".

Mammals can produce offspring only through sexual reproduction using an female egg fertilised by male sperm.

While some reptiles, amphibians, and fish can reproduce with one parent of the same sex, it's challenging for mammals to do the same even with the help of fertilization technology.

To make two-mother mice, the team first generated stem cells from a female mouse with half the usual number of chromosomes (23 instead of 46).

A healthy adult "bimaternal" mouse.

But while the research will raise expectations that other animals could be produced from parents of the same sex, Dr. Ilic warns that it will be a long time before similar methods could be used to produce human babies from two mums or two dads.

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One advantage of using haploid ESCs is that even before the problematic genes are knocked out, they contain less of the imprinting programming that ultimately causes maternal- or paternal-specific genes to be expressed.

Twelve live, full-term mice with two genetic fathers were produced using a similar but more complicated procedure.

These were transferred, along with placental material, into surrogate mothers.

"One possible approach is using "epigenetic-editing" on haploid stem cells, essentially reprogramming the DNA of one parent so it looks like that of the opposite sex without altering any genetic sequence".

These pups survived 48 hours after birth, but the researchers are planning to improve the process so that the bipaternal mice live to adulthood.

"To consider exploring similar technology for human application in the near future is implausible". Although only 2.5 percent of the offspring made it to term and most did not survive more than a few days, the researchers find the results promising. "We saw that the defects in bimaternal mice can be eliminated and that bipaternal reproduction barriers in mammals can also be crossed through imprinting modification".

Based at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, they wanted to understand why animals of the same sex can't have babies together.

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