Scientists produce first animal fetus without using sperm or eggs


EXCERPT: . . . Researchers at the Salk Institute and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said they were able to produce early stages of artificial mice embryos in the lab using only stem cells. The embryos appeared like natural ones that form in the womb. [...] The researchers ... hope the findings would guide development of procedures that could produce babies without using sperm and egg cells. This may offer hope to same sex couples and other people who would prefer raising their own kids without a partner. [...]

The team used pluripotent stem cells, also known as “master cells,” from adult mice to create an early form of blastocyst. These cells gave researchers flexibility since they can be modified into any kind of tissue in the body. Researchers then placed the stem cells in a special culture medium. The controlled environment allowed cells to connect and turn into a ball of cells with an inner and outer layer. The structure later appeared like a natural blastocyst, which contained similar primordial cell types found in natural blastocysts produced through natural reproduction.

The lab-grown and natural embryos also had similar size and gene expression, IFL Science reported Monday. Researchers implanted the artificial embryos into a mouse’s womb. The team was surprised that it continued to develop like the early stages of a typical fetus.

The study, published in the journal Cell, suggests it is possible to create viable embryos from cultured cells. It also offers scientists a new way to produce more blastocysts to study the early stages of human development, without collecting sperm, eggs or natural embryos. (MORE)

ALSO: Stem cell study offers new way to study early development and pregnancy

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