Of mice and men: scientists develop babies from same-sex mice pairs

Further studies may lead to fertility treatments in same-sex couples
A team of researchers has produced viable offspring from same-sex pairs of mice, using a novel technology that involves stem cells altered to remove certain genes. While the applications of the research are largely theoretical for now, they could include improving existing cloning methods for mammals and even eventually fertility treatments for same-sex couples. The study, published Thursday in Cell Stem Cell journal, is the first time the method has been successfully implemented, though previous research has looked at other ways to produce babies from same-sex pairs. But while the team was able to produce viable babies from female pairs of mice, whose offspring went on to have their own progeny, the mice produced from male pairs fared less well. They survived only 48 hours after birth, despite a complicated process of gene manipulation intended to eliminate abnormalities resulting from the same-sex reproductive process. While same-sex reproduction might seem an unusual avenue for research, many species are able to reproduce via methods that do not involve a male-female pairing.
‘Imprinting regions’
This field of research treads on tricky ethical ground, with previous studies involving genetic editing and novel methods of reproduction prompting fears about the implications if similar processes were eventually applied to humans. During the reproduction process, mammals mostly inherit two sets of each gene, one from their mother and one from their father. But a small subset of genes, known as “imprinted” genes, are inherited from only one parent. For these genes, the set produced by the other parent is effectively inactive, having been “shut off” when it is transmitted. If this “shutting off” process does not function correctly, the offspring could suffer from abnormalities or even die. Mixing genetic material from same-sex couples runs the risk of the babies receiving two sets of “imprinted” genes. So the study used haploid embryonic stem cells, which resemble “primordial germ cells, the precursors of eggs and sperm,” said co-senior author Baoyang Hu. They then altered the genetic makeup of the cells, deleting “imprinting regions” to effectively mimic the “shutting off” process in normal reproduction.
Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/of-mice-and-men-scientists-develop-babies-from-same-sex-mice-pairs/article25197131.ece

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