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Using Skin Cells to Make Babies

Savannah Spight, News Reporter

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Scientists have found a way to use skin cells rather than female eggs to make babies by fusing the skin cells with sperm to create viable embryos.

They have already successfully created baby mice using this method and believe it can be applied to humans in the near future.

“This is the first time that anyone has been able to show that anything other than an egg can combine with a sperm in this way to give rise to offspring. It overturns nearly 200 years of thinking,” said Dr. Tony Perry, one of the researchers from the University of Bath.

They believe they can reprogram adult cells, such as skin cells, to behave like embryonic stem cells, also known as induced pluripotent stem cells. Reprogrammed cells can be stimulated to grow into eggs or sperm, and, in turn, form an embryo that can be put into an adult womb.

In Japan, 2016, scientists successfully tried this method on mice. This made scientists believe that it could one day be applied to humans.

Many scientists agree it will be a while until this process will be perfected and done clinically, but when it is complete, the process will have the potential to replace traditional in vitro fertilization to treat infertility.

Ian Sample, a science editor for The Guardian, followed a research group at Bath University in Bath, England. This group believes that this new science has the promise to save endangered animals and  to improve human fertility treatment.

Sample said, “The study hints that eggs may not be unique in their ability to form embryos with sperm, and that skin and other cells in the body could even take their place.”

This could give, in theory, an opportunity to women who cannot make eggs due to old age or because of cancer treatments that damage fertility. In addition, this could aid male couples who desire their own biological offspring by fusing skin cells from one man with sperm of another.

Tom Perry, an embryologist and lead researcher on the skin cell project in Bath University said, “Our work challenges the dogma, held since early embryologists first observed mammalian eggs around 1827 and observed fertilization 50 years later, that only an egg cell fertilized with a sperm cell can result in live mammalian birth.”

Researchers and scientists are doing many studies and tests to find out if this process will be effective on humans. If the tests are successful, then it will be a more efficient way to create life and to save endangered species.

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Using Skin Cells to Make Babies