Scientists say they have grown mice using eggs derived from male cells, a breakthrough that could one day pave the way for human male couples to have children.
The researchers claim they succeeded in creating the eggs by converting the male XY chromosome pair from male mouse skin cells into the female XX chromosome pair.
This is done by turning skin cells into stem cells, deleting the Y chromosome, making a copy of the X chromosome, and then pairing the copy with the original X chromosome.
This allows the stem cells to be programmed to become an egg. The eggs were then fertilized with sperm from another mouse.
The technique was used to produce seven mouse pups that appeared healthy and lived a normal lifespan, the researchers said.
They believe the technology could one day be used to allow human male couples to have children together using eggs produced from their own cells.
It can also be used to treat Turner syndrome – a genetic disorder that only affects women and occurs when one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing.
But Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi from Osaka University conducted the research and presented it at the Crick Institute’s Human Gene Editing Summit London On Wednesday, he said it could be years before his technique can be successfully used in human cells.
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He also cautioned that replicating with human cells could be difficult because human cells take longer in culture to produce mature eggs.
Professor Mitinori Saitou, who also spoke at the event, said that the longer the culture time, the greater the likelihood of cells accumulating abnormally.
But Professor Hayashi said he was optimistic that the current problem could be solved within a decade, and his team will now try to replicate the research with human cells.
Professor George Daly of Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study, described it as “fascinating”.
But using the technique on human cells is “more difficult than in mice,” he said.
The results of the study have now been submitted to the scientific journal Nature for publication.