In the course of the study, the scientists generated eggs from male cells and then created offspring with two biological fathers.
For decades, scientists have been trying to solve the problem of infertility, and now they seem to be one step closer – scientists believe that the results of their study open up radically new opportunities for reproduction, writes The Guardian.
This is the first time in history that scientists have been able to create healthy mammalian oocytes from male cells, said lead author of the study, world-famous pioneer in the field of lab-grown eggs and sperm, Katsuhiko Hayashi. What’s more, the scientists believe that this process could eventually pave the way for treatment of severe infertility, as well as the prospect of future same-sex couples having a biological child together.
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In the course of the study, the scientists were able to create mice that technically had two biological fathers, for this they used a chain of complex steps, including genetic engineering. At the same time, scientists became the first in history to culture viable eggs from male cells, an achievement in itself.
Hayashi presented his work at the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the Francis Crick Institute in London and stated that his and his colleagues’ results of the study give hope that this process can be recreated in human cells. By the way, this is exactly what the Hayashi team is currently doing.
The researchers note that much more research is needed before the technology can be used in a clinical setting. Probably, in 10 years, two men will actually be able to give birth to a biological child, and the whole process will be completely safe.
At the same time, Hayashi notes that he cannot say with certainty that this service will ever be available to the public. It is important to understand that technically this is indeed possible, but in practice, such a question is relevant not only to science, but also to our society.
The team also notes that this method could be applied to the treatment of severe forms of infertility, including in women with Turner syndrome, who are completely or partially missing one copy of the X chromosome.
Note that not everyone in the scientific community believes in the success of further clinical trials on human cells. For example, Professor George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, called the work “fascinating,” but added that other scientists’ research shows that transferring this technology to human cells can be much more difficult than it might seem at first.
In the study, the scientists used skin cells that carry a male combination of XY chromosomes and then transformed them into an egg with a female version of XX. Initially, the male cells were reprogrammed, then the Y chromosome was removed, and the X chromosome, “borrowed” from another cell, took its place. Essentially, the biggest trick of the entire study is the duplication of the X chromosome, Hayashi says.
The cells were then cultured in a system reproducing the conditions inside a mouse ovary. After the cells were fertilized with normal spermatozoa, as a result, the scientists received about six hundred embryos, which were then placed in surrogate mice. According to Hayashi, in the end, only seven cubs were born, which means that the effectiveness of this method was about 1% and was lower than the method of using normal female eggs, which is 5%. However, the cubs were healthy and had a normal lifespan, and could even produce offspring as adults.
Focus has previously written that air pollution can lead to male infertility.
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