The oft-asked question “How is babby formed?” just got a little more complicated to answer. A team of Japanese researchers have reared baby mice who are the product of joining an artificial sperm cell and an artificial egg. Both of the reproductive cells in question were made by transforming adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), the lab created stem cell strains that have shown both promise and peril in recent studies. Those iPSCs were then turned into sperm and egg cells, respectively, and finally turned into adorable mouse pups.
The work is the logical next step for the lab, which bred a littler of mouse pups fathered by the artificial sperm last year. A close eye will be kept on the baby mice to ensure that they’re normal and healthy, which will presumably save them from the “eaten by mom” fate that can be so hazardous to rodent infants.
It’s by no means a simple process. Currently, the egg stem cells have to be incubated within a female mouse to transform into viable eggs, which are then harvested, fertilized in a test tube, and then implanted into a team of surrogate mouse moms. So, yes, we’ve heard of more romantic couplings, as this makes even dinner and a movie seem like cause to be thoroughly swept off one’s feet. But the project seems to get the job done, which, considering what we’re talking about here — turning adult cells into stem cells, stem cells into reproductive cells, and reproductive cells into babies — is mighty impressive.
Similar work in humans — if it turns out to be possible and safe — remains, of course, years away from fruition. Still, if it proceeds apace, the work could prove to be a big smack in the face of infertility that would be a welcome sight for many couples trying to conceive.
(via Science Mag)
- iPSCs are still pretty touch and go, as far as not causing cancer goes
- They’re no embryonic stem cells, which we’re also still figuring out
- Here is last years experiment, using only artificial sperm