Dr Katsuhiko Hayashi, from Kyoto University, has used stem cells created from skin cells to create eggs. Those eggs were fertilized and gave birth to mice, which in turn, gave birth to more mice.
I recently posted about Johns Hopkins researchers successfully returning blood cells back to their original stem cell state. Japan has taken the world of stem cells one step further.
First, the researchers turned the skin cells, which were initially reprogrammed into stem cells, into early versions of eggs.The eggs were then surrounded by reconstituted ovaries and transplanted into female mice.
IVF techniques were used to collect the eggs, fertilize them with sperm from a male mouse and implant the fertilized egg into a surrogate mother.
The mice born from this procedure than had perfectly healthy baby mice of their own whose “grandmother was a cell in a laboratory dish.”
The researchers believe that this process could eventually help infertile couples have children with genetic relation to themselves using just a single skin cell.
Unfortunately Dr. Hayashi warned that:
it is impossible to adapt immediately this system to human stem cells, due to a number of not only scientific reasons, but also ethical reasons.
Researchers are concerned due to a still limited level of understanding of human egg development as well as the long-term consequences of the health of any child developed using this process.
That being said, Dr Evelyn Telfer, from the University of Edinburgh state that:
If you can show it works in human cells it is like the Holy Grail of reproductive biology.
Professor Robert Norman, from the University of Adelaide, also added that:
For many infertile couples, finding they have no sperm or eggs is a devastating blow. This paper offers light to those who want a child, who is genetically related to them, by using personalized stem cells to create eggs that can produce an offspring that appears to be healthy. It also offers the potential for women to have their own children well past menopause raising even more ethical issues.
The researchers have their eyes on future human application and are very busy and careful in admitting that we still have a long way to go before we can confidently and safely use this procedure in human births, but let’s just recap what we’ve read here: A skin cell gave birth to a fertile, healthy mouse which in turn gave birth to another fertile, healthy mouse ad infinitum. That, in and of itself, is a remarkable feat.
Just imagine the conversations we will be having in the future:
“Dad, can you tell us about Grandma again?”
“Not much to tell son, your grandmother was a spleen cell, but she loved you with all her… well, she just loved you.”