Researchers have used stem cell technology and gene editing to breed mice using only two mothers and no male mouse. The baby mice were healthy and grew into adults and had offspring of their own. In a previous experiment, researchers were able to breed mice from two father. They were also born but were only alive for two days.
The study conducted by Chinese researchers was recently published in the journal Cell Stem Cell on 11 September, showing that same-sex reproduction is possible with stem cells and gene editing. However, this finding is not possible for humans, explains a stem cell specialist at King’s College London, Dusko Ilic, who was not part of the study:
“To consider exploring similar technology for human application in the near future is implausible. The risk of severe abnormalities is too high, and it would take years of research in various animal models to fully understand how this could be done safely.”
Fish, reptile, and amphibians can reproduce with just one parent, but mammals are far more complex when it comes to fertilization.
Breeding Mice from Two Moms and No Dad
The leader of the research team, Qi Zhou, used haploid embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in their experiment. These cells contain only half of the number of chromosomes and DNA from a single parent.
Then they used gene editing to delete three imprinting regions of the genome from the ESCs that contained the DNA of a female parent and then injected the resulting cells into the eggs of a different female mouse. The experiment resulted in the breeding of 29 live mice from 210 embryos.
All the 29 mice were normal and reached adulthood, and then had babies too.
The same experiment was done on two male mice, but the mice only survived for two days after birth.
Wei Li, the co-leader of the study, concluded that this experiment showed them the possibility of genetic manipulation. The team also hopes to explore these techniques on other research animals in the future.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.