Males To Produce Babies Now? Scientists Develop Embryos From Non-Egg Cells

First Posted: Sep 14, 2016 06:19 AM EDT

Scientists have defied nature once again in an experiment which could make it possible for even males to have babies of their own. Motherless babies could be a possibility in the future as scientists have discovered a method of creating an embryo without using a female egg.

The experiment published in journal Nature by researchers from the University of Bath have rewritten years of biology teaching and reproduction. This could possibly pave the way in the future for a baby to be born from just the DNA of two men.

It had always been thought that a female egg was necessary as only it can spark the changes in a sperm required to make a baby. When a sperm and egg meet they complete the genetic quota, with half of the DNA coming from the mother and half from the father. But now scientists have proven that embryos can be created from cells which carry all the chromosomes. This theoretically means that any cell in the human body could be fertilized by a sperm, reports the Telegraph.

Scientists working at the Department of Biology & Biochemistry at the University of Bath have now developed a technique of injecting mouse parthenogenotes with sperm allowing them to become healthy baby mice with a success rate reaching 24 per cent. The study was published on Tuesday, 13 September in the journal Nature Communications.

Dr Tony Perry, Molecular embryologist and also senior author of the study, said: "This is first time that full term development has been achieved by injecting sperm into embryos." It had always been thought that an egg cell was only capable of programming a sperm for embryonic development to take place. "Our work challenges the dogma," he added. The idea belongs to Dr Toru Suzuki of Dr Perry's team, who also performed the study with team member Dr Maki Asami and other colleagues coming from the University of Regensburg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine in Germany.

The baby mice born as a result of the method is completely healthy although their DNA started out with different epigenetic marks compared to that with normal fertilization. The discovery still has much ethical implications following the recent suggestions that human parthenogenotes could be used as a source of embryonic stem cells as they were well thought-out in viable. This also hints that in the future it may be possible to breed animals using non-egg cells.

Although this may still be an idea, it has many potential future applications in human fertility treatment and also for breeding of endangered species. Dr Paul Colville-Nash, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) who has also funded the work, said: "This is an amazing piece of research that may help us to understand more about how human life begins and what controls the viability of embryos. It may one day have implications to treat infertility, though that's still a long way around."

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