Reproduction used to be a simple thing: two parents, one egg, one sperm, one embryo, one baby. But on [October 25], a study published in Cell complicated — or simplified, depending on who you ask — the arithmetic. Researchers report that they have successfully created mouse fetuses without using sperm and eggs — a scientific first.
In place of the usual starting materials, the team, led by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, used specialized stem cells that can theoretically turn into any adult cell or cell needed to make an embryo. In a dish, these cells grew and self-assembled into embryo-like structures that were transferred into mouse wombs and started to grow like fetuses.
Some of those extended pluripotent stem cells, or EPS cells, were derived from ear cells, suggesting that sexual reproduction may no longer be necessary. But senior author Jun Wu, PhD, says that’s not what this research is about.
“The goal of this research at this stage is certainly not ‘end of sex’ for reproduction,” Wu, an assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, tells OneZero in an email. “The primary goal is to understand early development.”
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