Scientists achieve the impossible by creating a baby from two male mice

The team deleted the Y chromosome, duplicated the X chromosome, and then combined the two X's, permitting the stem cell to be programmed to become an egg.
Deena Theresa
Two laboratory mice.
Two laboratory mice.

Olena Kurashova/iStock 

In what is definitely a breakthrough in reproductive science, Japanese researcher professor Katsuhiko Hayashi from Kyushu University has created mice from two male mice upon generating eggs from their cells, BBC News reported.

Hayashi, who is working on developing fertility treatments, announced at the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the Francis Crick Institute in London on Wednesday.

The research, which involves turning male XY sex chromosomes into female XX ones, could not only help same-sex couples have a biological child in the future but also improve treatments for extreme forms of infertility.

"Hayashi's work is unpublished but fascinating. [Doing this on Humans] is harder than the mouse," Prof George Daley of Harvard Medical School, who is not involved in the research, told the BBC. "We still don't understand enough of the unique biology of human gametogenesis (the formation of reproductive cells) to reproduce Hayashi's provocative work in mice"

What does the technique involve?

According to Prof Hayashi, the work is at a very early stage and cannot be used safely on humans at this point. There are also obstacles to using lab-grown eggs for clinical purposes.

The technique involves taking a skin cell from a male mouse and turning it into a stem cell that can turn into other types of cells. As the cells are male, they comprise XY chromosomes. Prof Hayashi's team would delete the Y chromosome, duplicate the X chromosome and then combine the two X's, permitting the stem cell to be programmed to become an egg, BBC News reported.

The baby mice seemed healthy, had a normal lifespan, and even had offspring as adults. "They look OK, they look to be growing normally, they become fathers," said Prof Hayashi.

The technology is not available for human use

Prof Amander Clark, a stem cell scientist from the University of California, Los Angeles, said that the LBGTQ+ community needed to have a say in the use of this technology.

"The LGBTQ+ community has unique needs when it comes to having a family. It may be possible in the future for same-sex reproduction based upon current research using laboratory models to develop the technology," Prof Clark said.

"However, today, this technology is not available for human use, safety and efficacy have not been proven, and it is unclear how long the technology will take to get to the clinic. There is still much to learn about the human germ line, and fundamental knowledge gaps serve as a barrier to translating this research to humans," Prof Clark added.

Prof Hayashi told BBC News that it was likely existing hurdles could be overcome in ten years, and if proven safe to use, he would like to see it available as a fertility treatment for both male and female and same-sex couples.

The paper has been submitted for publication in the scientific journal Nature.

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