Healthy mice born from same-sex parents for first time

A mouse pup that was born to two genetic fathers.									Leyun Wang  Chinese Academy of Sciences

First, the team deleted three imprinting regions of the genome from haploid ESCs from one female parent, then injected them into eggs from another mother.

Healthy mice babies with two mothers and no father have been born. The offspring eventually grew into healthy adults and even had their own healthy children.

Just as impressively, the created mice were able to live to adulthood and have offspring of their own.

Some reptiles, amphibians and fish can reproduce with one parent of the same sex.

They were also able to create 12 live mice with two fathers, but those pups survived only two days, indicating there were greater challenges for successful reproduction using two male parents.

A team of researchers has produced viable offspring from same-sex pairs of mice, using a novel technology that involves stem cells altered to remove certain genes.

To produce their healthy bimaternal mice, Dr Zhou, co-senior author Dr Baoyang Hu, co-senior author Dr Wei Li, and their colleagues used 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'.

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Study author Qi Zhou, a developmental biologist, said their findings showed "a new and clear way to produce offspring between same-sex mammals". "We found in this study that haploid ESCs were more similar to primordial germ cells, the precursors of eggs and sperm". For example, there is a need to identify problematic imprinted genes that are unique to each species and ongoing concerns for the offspring that don't survive or that experience severe abnormalities. They then edited the cells to remove parts of DNA that normally block reproduction using only male or female genes.

The mechanism controls the growth of young mammals through parts of genes called imprinted regions, which require DNA from both male and female parents for normal growth.

She told The Sun: "Animal mothers are subjected to surgical procedures in order to harvest their eggs and implant the engineered embryos, many pregnancies fail, and the animals who are born are commonly forced to live with unintended debilitating conditions, such as missing eyes or ears, skin ulcers, deformed body parts, deafness, seizures, and heart failure, to name just a few".

They survived only 48 hours after birth, despite a complicated process of gene manipulation meant to eliminate abnormalities resulting from the same-sex reproductive process.

He said, "To consider exploring similar technology for human application in the near future is implausible". "However, the generated mice still showed defective features, and the method itself is very impractical and hard to use", said Zhou.

Despite having success with mice, Li said the same technique can not easily be applied to other mammals - such as humans - since each species has a unique set of problematic imprinted genes, and identifying these takes time.

'We also revealed some of the most important imprinted regions that hinder the development of mice with same sex parents, which are also interesting for studying genomic imprinting and animal cloning'.

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