The study, published Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell, shows for the first time a method that has been successful, whereas previous research on the same theme did not succeed.
A team of researchers announced that it had managed to give birth to mice, viable from parents of the same sex, by using a new technology that uses stem cells engineered to eliminate certain genes.
Theoretically, this method, which raises many ethical questions, could allow a new approach to the cloning of mammals, and even allow conception for gay couples.
These prospects, however, remain distant, since in addition to ethical considerations, these methods still face technical hurdles.
The study, published on Thursday, October 12 in the journal Cell Stem Cell, shows for the first time a method that has been successful, whereas previous research on the same theme did not succeed.
In the case of couples of female mice, scientists have produced, from 210 embryos, 29 offspring who lived to adulthood and reproduced normally.
Mice from the genetic material of the males did not survive
But the mice created from two sets of genetic material of the males survived only for 48 hours, and the researchers plan further study of the reasons why the process has not worked.
There is the natural state of many of the species capable of reproducing via methods which do not involve a male/female couple.
Reptiles, amphibians, and fish can reproduce with only one parent, but the process is more complicated for mammals.
“We are interested in the question of why mammals can only undergo sexual reproduction,” said the newspaper, one of the authors of the study, Qi Zhou, chinese Academy of sciences.
Mammals inherit half their genome from their mother, and the other from their father.
During the process of reproduction in mammals, some genes are subject to a mechanism essential for the development, called “imprinting”.
Under this mechanism, for the same gene, the copy inherited from the father and one inherited from the mother are not expressed the same way : one is active and the other is off.
To work around this mechanism, and therefore succeed in creating offspring from animals of the same sex, chinese researchers have used embryonic stem cells to be haploid (containing only one copy of each chromosome, rather than two as for the sexual reproduction classic).
They then altered the genetic composition of these cells via a complex process, before injecting it into an egg of the mouse.
The process differed depending on whether the parents were two female mice or two male mice.
It is implausible that this kind of technology could be applied to man in the near future
“It is implausible that this kind of technology could be applied to man in the near future”, noted one expert who was not involved in the work, dr. Dusko Ilic, from King’s College London.
“The risk of abnormalities severe is too high and it would take years of research, on different types of animals, to get to understand how this method could be safely applied,” continued the Dr. Ilic, quoted by the Science media centre (SMC).