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Babies without female eggs

  1. Sep 14, 2016 #1
    Baby mice created from sperm, without an egg

    How exactly do you get the embryo in the first place without an egg? Furthermore how do you get an embryo without already injecting it with sperm? This news clip is really confusing. I'm not sure what the actual big development is here.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2016 #2


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    Here's a citation to the paper they're discussing:
    Suziki et al. 2016. Mice produced by mitotic reprogramming of sperm injected into haploid parthenogenotes. Nat. Commun. 7:12676. doi:10.1038/ncomms12676

    I'm not an expert in the area, but I think one can stimulate unfertilized eggs to develop into non-viable embryos through a process called parthenogenesis (in some animals, parthenogenesis can result in viable embryos, but this is not the case for humans). From a quick skim of the article, the article seems to be addressing the scientific question of how the genetic material of sperm gets "reprogrammed" during fertilizaiton (for some background on the concept of cell reprogramming, see this recent thread on PF). The article itself does not seem to suggest any immediate clinical applications.

    In terms of reproductive technologies, I think a game-changing technology would be the ability to reprogram differentiated cells into egg cells. Currently, we have the ability to reprogram differentiated cells (like skin cells) into cells that resemble stem cells (called induced pleuripotent stem cells or iPSCs). If we could then figure out the conditions to get those iPSCs to differentiate into viable oocytes, we would be able to avoid performing surgery in order to obtain eggs for reproductive procedures like in vitro fertilization (instead, doctors would only need to take a skin biopsy). This technology would also make gene editing of embryos easier, as researchers could start with a large pool of oocyte precursor cells, perform gene editing, then screen for cells that contain the desired gene edits and not any unwanted changes to the genome.
  4. Sep 14, 2016 #3


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    Several years ago zebrafish researchers showed they were able to fertilize an egg by injecting either a sperm cell nucleus or a sperm cell body (with out the tail which would get in the way) and get fairly normal embryos.
    Also in zebrafish, it is possible to routinely make haploid embryos which can develop for a few days before dying. They only have genetics from the female parent and are used in research to reveal recessive mutations because there is only one copy of each gene present. This is done by "fertilizing" eggs with sperm that has been irradiated with UV light which busts up the DNA enough to make it inoperable for genetics. The sperm cell is metabolically alive but genetically empty. It does however get the cellular events of development started.
    This sounds like they injected a sperm cell into a cell derived from a embryo, made in some way similar to this, or perhaps injected cells within an embryo.
    That "fertilized" cell(s) would then have to be grown up to make an embryo. Its unlikely that an embryo of a thousand cells or more would all get "fertilized" at once. On the other hand, as the haploid cells around a few "fertilized" cells die or stop growing, the diploid cells derived might multiple and perhaps take over the embryo resulting in a fully diploid embryo after a few days. That sounds kind of sloppy to me but it may work. It would be kind of like the cells of the monster in The Thing (1982, Carpenter version) taking over the bodies of other creatures.
  5. Sep 15, 2016 #4
  6. Sep 15, 2016 #5
    And another,
    Already some disagreement with the researchers conclusion.
  7. Sep 15, 2016 #6


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    Here is a new story from Science (Mag) that follows a game of telephone through different media out to newspapers.
    The message diverges as it is propagated along.
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