Healthy mice born from same-sex parents for first time

IMAGE This image shows a bipaternal mouse pup.  view more  Credit Leyun Wang

IMAGE This image shows a bipaternal mouse pup. view more Credit Leyun Wang

Meanwhile, using DNA from two males resulted in the birth of 12 mice which died just 48 hours after they were born.

Haploid embryonic stem cells with gene deletions have led to a new first in a laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Sciences: mouse pups created from the DNA exclusively of same-sex parents-of two mothers, or two fathers.

Image: The mice have now had healthy babies of their own.

In mammals, because certain maternal or paternal genes were shut off during germline development by a mechanism called genomic imprinting, offspring that didn't receive genetic material from both a mother and a father might experience developmental abnormalities or might not be viable.

The scientists said there are still obstacles to using such methods in other mammals, including identifying which imprinted genes need to be deleted.

"We were interested in the question of why mammals can only undergo sexual reproduction", Qi Zhou, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a news releases. The authors write that "cultured parthenogenetic and androgenetic haploid embryonic stem cells (haESCs) display DNA hypomethylation resembling that of primordial germ cells".

"This is an important advance that builds on previous efforts to make uniparental ('fatherless' or motherless') offspring using DNA from same-sex parents".

Experts said that the concept was intriguing for its possible application to human reproduction.

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While a major step in single-sex parent fertilisation, the current technique is far from ideal: just 29 live mice were produced from 210 embryos.

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.

HEALTHY mice have been bred from two mums and gone on to have normal pups of their own.

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

Specifically, the scientists produced normal mice from same-sex parents using haploid embryonic stem cells with gene deletions. So the researchers generated an unusual set of eggs and sperm by erasing some of the imprinted marks on the genome, essentially turning back the clock on these reproductive cells until they resembled the genetic manuscript's unedited first draft. (Empty or not, an eggy enclosure is still necessary to bring sperm and sperm together.) These odd hybrid embryos-literal egg shells containing double doses of paternal DNA-were then transferred into a surrogate mouse mother. The researchers took an egg from one mouse and a special type of cell - a haploid embryonic stem cell - from another.

"This research shows us what's possible", said study co-author Wei Li, also noting that their study could be useful in future studies of genomic imprinting and animal cloning.

"The major impact of this work is the furthering of our fundamental understanding of how imprinting operates in mammals and how it acts as a barrier to uniparental reproduction".

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