Ground breaking study paves path for egg-less embryos

18 Sep 2016 | By Vijaya
Two-father babies, a possibility in the near future

In a breakthrough experiment, scientists at England's University of Bath succeeded in developing embryo without fertilizing an egg.

They demonstrated that mice offspring can be produced from non-egg cells by injecting sperm into a one-cell embryo (parthenogenote).

The study raises the possibility of gay men becoming biological parents without an egg donor. This could also help infertile women have their own biological children.

In context: Two-father babies, a possibility in the near future

Adoption/surrogacyCurrent methods of having a child for gay couples

The current available options for gay couples to have a child is either through adoption, where neither of the two men will have a biological contribution; or through surrogacy.

In case of surrogacy, an egg donor and surrogate are used. This means only one of the two men can make a biological contribution in the way of providing the sperm.

18 Sep 2016Ground breaking study paves path for egg-less embryos

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What is a parthenogenote?

Parthenogenotes are all-female embryos developed without being fertilized by the sperm. The egg cell here is tricked into developing as if it was fertilized.
What was the experiment?

TechniqueWhat was the experiment?

The scientists used 'parthenogenote' mouse embryos for the experiment.

Parthenogenotes usually die after a few days because they lack right programming.

Researchers at University of Bath, found a way of keeping them alive by injecting them with sperm cells to transform parthenogenotes into normal embryos, which in turn produced healthy mice offspring.

The study produced 30 pups, with a 24 percent success rate.

DetailsHow is the study significant?

While the experiment began by using an egg cell, scientists believe that it is not required to 'spark the same development'.

It is to be understood that parthenogenotes are 'mitotic cells' (body's non-reproductive cells).

This means in theory, the technique should work with any body cell as along as half the chromosomes are removed from it to allow them to fuse with sperm's chromosomes.

FutureMitotic cells for producing embryos

Scientists are aiming to research the potential for skin cells to replace the egg cells in this process.

If successful, it lets gay couple have children with each other and allows a man to fertilize his cells with his own sperm.

More realistically, this would allow women whose fertility is 'wiped out by cancer drugs or radiotherapy' to have children using their non-egg cells.

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Preservation of endangered species

The usage of skin cells (somatic cells) for making viable embryos, could also help in preservation of endangered animal species, since it avoids the need to recover eggs from such species.