Fa­ther­less mice go on to have own pups

Weekend Herald - - News - Jamie Mor­ton

Chi­nese re­searchers have wowed the sci­ence world by breed­ing healthy mice with two mothers that went on to have nor­mal pups of their own.

The team, from the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences, were also able to pro­duce mice from two fa­thers, although these died af­ter a few days.

One New Zealand re­searcher said the break­through might even of­fer a new way for same-sex cou­ples to re­pro­duce their own healthy chil­dren.

The find­ings, pub­lished yes­ter­day in the jour­nal Cell Stem Cell, looked at what made it so chal­leng­ing for an­i­mals of the same sex to pro­duce off­spring, sug­gest­ing some of these bar­ri­ers could be over­come us­ing stem cells and tar­geted gene edit­ing.

“We were in­ter­ested in the ques­tion of why mam­mals can only un­dergo sex­ual re­pro­duc­tion,” study se­nior au­thor Qi Zhou said.

While some rep­tiles, am­phib­ians, and fish could re­pro­duce with one par­ent, it was still chal­leng­ing for mam­mals to do the same even with the help of fer­til­i­sa­tion tech­nol­ogy.

To pro­duce their healthy bi­ma­ter­nal mice, Zhou and col­leagues used what are called hap­loid em­bry­onic stem cells (ESCs), which con­tain half the nor­mal num­ber of chro­mo­somes and DNA from only one par­ent, and which the re­searchers be­lieve were the key to their suc­cess.

Dr Tim Hore, of the Univer­sity of Otago, said while mice with two mothers were cre­ated in the early 2000s, this was unique for the range of tech­nol­ogy used.

“Yet, the work does fall short of cre­at­ing mam­malian off­spring from the same sex in the ab­sence of sub­stan­tial ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion. In order for same-sex par­ents to both have ge­netic con­tri­bu­tions to their chil­dren in an as­sisted re­pro­duc­tion set­ting, it is likely an­other tech­no­log­i­cal leap will be re­quired.”

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