Healthy Mice Created From Skin Stem Cells In Lab

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Japanese scientists reported in the journal Science that they have created life using stem cells made from skin.

The skin cells were used to create eggs which were then fertilized to produce baby mice, who later had their own babies.

The technique has implications that may possibly help infertile couples have children, and maybe could even allow women to overcome menopause.

About one in 10 women of childbearing age face trouble becoming a parent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year, the scientists at Kyoto University were able to make viable sperm from stem cells. In the more recent study, the team was able to perform a similar accomplishment with eggs.

The researchers used two sources, including those collected from an embryo and skin-like cells, that were reprogrammed into becoming stem cells.

After turning the stem cells into early versions of eggs, they rebuilt an ovary by surrounding the early eggs with other types of supporting cells normally found in an ovary.

They used IVF techniques to collect the eggs, fertilize them with sperm from a male mouse and implant the fertilized egg into a surrogate mother.

The babies not only turned out to be healthy, they were also able to make their own offspring.

Although the implications provide potential relief for couples suffering from infertility, the system cannot be immediately adapted to human cells for both scientific and ethical reasons, according to Dr. Katsuhiko Hayashi from Kyoto University.

He told BBC that the level of understanding of human egg development is too limited and there would also be questions about the long-term consequences on the health of a child.

“It’s an absolutely brilliant paper – they made oocytes [eggs] from scratch and get live offspring. I just thought wow! The science is quite brilliant,” Dr. Evelyn Telfer, from the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement. “If you can show it works in human cells it is like the Holy Grail of reproductive biology.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the research creates an opportunity for scientists to look at the genesis of the egg.

“How is the reserve established in the beginning? What contributes to some women having depleted reserves? How do cells make the choice to enter meiosis? There are hundreds of questions we can begin to answer,” UCLA stem cell scientist Amander Clark told the LA Times.

Professor Robert Norman from the University of Adelaide said the paper offers hope for parents who want a child genetically related to them and for women who want their own children but are well past menopause.

“Application to humans is still a long way off, but for the first time the goal appears to be in sight,” Norman said in a statement.

Dr. Allan Pacey from the British Fertility Society and the University of Sheffield said that what is remarkable about the research is that the offspring were both healthy and fertile.

“This is a great step forward, but I would urge caution as this is a laboratory study and we are still quite a long way from clinical trials taking place in humans,” Pacey said in a statement.

The researchers said in the journal that their study serves as a foundation to investigate and reconstitute female germ line development in vitro in mice as well as other mammals.

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