Embryo technology can lead to children with genes from two men

MONDAY, March 11, 2024 (HealthDay News) — New technology may soon allow men in same-sex relationships to have a child genetically linked to both parents, researchers say.

The technology uses cells from a person's skin to alter the genetics of a donated egg, researchers reported in the March 8 issue of Science Advances.

That egg can be fertilized by sperm, creating a viable embryo with the combined genetics of the skin donor and sperm donor.

It can help same-sex couples have a child of their own and women who are unable to produce viable eggs due to advanced age, cancer treatment or other reasons.

„The goal is to produce eggs for patients who don't have their own eggs,” said Shoukrat Mitalibov, director of the Embryo Cell and Gene Therapy Center at Oregon Health and Science University.

This is the same technique used by researchers in Scotland in 1996 to clone Dolly, a goat, the researchers said.

In that case, the researchers created a clone of one parent, while the OHSU researchers focused on creating embryos with genetics taken from both parents.

The OHSU team followed a three-step process to do this in mouse experiments.

They first removed a mouse egg from its embryo, then transplanted a mouse skin cell embryo into the mouse egg.

In a process similar to that occurring in cells dividing to produce mature sperm or eggs, the implanted skin caused the cell's nucleus to discard half of its chromosomes.

Finally, researchers fertilize the new egg with sperm, resulting in a healthy embryo with two equally-donated chromosomes from both parents.

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The procedure could prove a simpler option than a competing technique being tested by other labs around the world, in which skin cells are completely reprogrammed to become eggs or sperm.

„We skip that whole cellular reprogramming step,” researcher Dr. Paula Amato, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at OHSU School of Medicine, said in an OHSU news release. „The advantage of our technique is that it avoids the long culture time it takes to reprogram a cell. Over several months, many deleterious genetic and epigenetic changes can occur.”

However, researchers caution that it will be years before this technique becomes available to humans.

„It gives us a lot of information,” Amato said. „But there is still a lot of work to be done to understand how these chromosomes attach and separate to truly mimic what happens in nature.”

More info

Planned Parenthood offers more information about fertilization.

Source: Oregon Health and Science University, news release, March 9, 2024

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