Fatherless mice go on to have own pups
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.”