A team of researchers announced that they have successfully produced healthy mice from same-sex parents using a new technology that uses modified stem cells to eliminate specific genes. Theoretically, this method, which raises many ethical questions, could allow a new approach to mammalian cloning and even allow conception for gay couples.
However, these prospects remain distant since, in addition to ethical considerations, these methods still face technical obstacles. The study, published Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell, presents for the first time a working process in this direction, while previous research on the same topic had not been successful.
In the case of female mouse pairs, scientists produced 29 mice from 210 embryos that lived to adulthood and reproduced normally. But mice created from two sets of male genetic material survived only 48 hours, and the researchers plan to investigate further why this process did not work.
“We were interested in the question of why mammals can only undergo sexual reproduction,” one of the study’s authors, Qi Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told.
Scientists Developed Healthy Mice From Same-Sex Parents, Using Modified Stem Cells
Mammals inherit half of their genome from their mothers and the other half from their fathers. During the mammalian reproductive process, some genes are subjected to a mechanism essential to development, called the “parental footprint.” Under this mechanism, for the same gene, the copy inherited from the father and the copy inherited from the mother are not expressed in the same way, as one is active and the other is extinct.
To bypass this mechanism, and thus successfully create mice from same-sex parents, researchers used haploid embryonic stem cells, containing only one copy of each chromosome, not two as in conventional sexual reproduction.
They then modified the genetic composition of these cells via a complicated process, before injecting them into a female egg. The process differed depending on whether the parents were two female mice or two male mice.