Mice created from two fathers via stem cell technology

File photo of a litter of mice.

Stem cell research has enabled mice to be reproduced from two dads. (Photo Credit: CC BY/joost j. bakker/Flickr)

While human stem cell research in the U.S. continues to struggle to secure adequate funding, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, is making advances with mice. According to Physorg.com, Dr. Richard Berhringer has produced male and female mice from two fathers using stem cell technology. The study was posted today in the scientific journal Biology of Reproduction.

Stem cell technology: A kaleidoscope of possibilities

Using stem cell technology in this way could have wide-ranging effects on the way a multitude of genetics and animal husbandry problems are handled, suggest scientists. For instance, preserving endangered species using the stem cell techniques Dr. Berhringer used with the two male mice in the study would likely be possible, as would enhancing livestock and improving human assisted reproductive technology. Not only that, but same-sex couples could conceivably have their own genetic children. It’s science fiction that could soon become science fact.

How Richard Berhringer did it

In a nutshell, Richard Berhringer’s team changed fibroblasts (cells from which connective tissue forms) from a male mouse fetus (XY chromosomes) to produce an induced pluripotent stem (iPS; stem cells with a forced expression of selected genes) cell line. According to Physorg.com, approximately 1 percent of the iPS colonies spontaneously lost the Y chromosome, creating XO cells. These XO iPS cells were subsequently inserted into donor female blastocysts (early development embryos). These blastocysts were put into surrogate mothers, which gave birth to female XO/XX chimeras (mice with two distinctly different populations of genetically distinct cells).

Bring in the two dads

The chimeras were then mated with two normal male mice. The resulting litter included both male and female mice; both expressed the genetic contributions of the two dads. Essentially, iPS stem cell technology enabled Richard Berhringer and team to combine the genes from two males to create male and female children.

By extension, Berhringer theorizes that the techniques used in the study could be used to combine desirable genetic traits without involving females in the final cross-breeding, a concept that would inevitably stir controversy; the iPS process could also work with two mothers. Further research is necessary before scientists will know whether stem cell technology of this nature will have therapeutic application in humans.

Sources

Biology of Reproduction

Physorg.com

Douglas Melton on stem cells and cloning

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