Same-sex (Female) mouse parents give birth via gene editing
Scientists delivered pups with genetic material from two moms and two dads. But only pups with two moms survived to have babies themselves.
BIRDS DO IT, bees do it—even laboratory mice do it. But with science in the mix, actually creating new life may not always require a male and a female.
Using gene editing and stem cells, researchers in China have helped mice of the same sex bear pups. While this feat has been accomplished before with mouse moms, the new study marks the first time that pups from pairs of male mice were also carried to full term.
The technology is far from ready for the leap to humans. Though mice pups born from two females appeared healthy and bore their own young, pups with two papas died soon after birth. Of the 12 born, just two survived more than 48 hours.
Still, the new study, published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, is an encouraging step toward a better understanding of the barriers that prevent such genetic coupling between individuals of the same sex. The work also raises a slew of ethical questions among experts, with the health of future offspring being the primary concern.
“When you do the gene targeting, you may get some unintended side effects. You may alter other sequences which you didn’t mean to alter,” says Azim Surani, a developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge who was not involved in the study. These changes in the genome are passed from one generation to the next, along with any potentially negative side effects.
At this point, the researchers aren’t focused on translating the results to humans, but it’s not an impossibility: “We can’t assert this technique could never be used in humans in the future,” senior author Wei Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences says via email.
“We’re going to have to really think hard, as a society, about what our threshold should be for doing this kind of research,” says Sonia Suter, a law professor at George Washington University who specializes in bioethics and health policy.
The new study is one in a series of works attempting to get around an issue called imprinting. In humans, genes are packed into 23 pairs of chromosomes—you inherit one set from mom and another from dad. Yet many creatures don’t develop in the same configuration. A select few vertebrates can have babies without genetic input from a male—some types of lizards, frogs, and even fish can bear young without fathers. Oftentimes, this so-called parthenogenesis is spurred by captivity.
Original Report HERE.