Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mice, born of skin cells, raise human hope, fear

This photo provided by researcher Katsuhiko Hayashi shows an adult mouse, born from an egg cell produced from a skin cell, and her pups.

Associated Press

This photo provided by researcher Katsuhiko Hayashi shows an adult mouse, born from an egg cell produced from a skin cell, and her pups.

NEW YORK — Scientists have turned mouse skin cells into eggs that produced baby mice — a technique that, if successfully applied to humans, could someday allow women to stop worrying about the ticking of their biological clocks.

For technical as well as ethical reasons, nobody expects doctors will be making eggs from women's skin cells any time soon. But some see possibilities.

Some experts say that someday it could help millions of women who don't have working eggs of their own.

"It could mean the reproductive clock doesn't tick for women anymore," said Hank Greely, a Stanford University law professor who studies the implications of biomedical technologies.

"I think it's a pretty large advance in the next generation of reproductive technologies for women," said Amander Clark, who studies egg development at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The mice experiments were reported online Thursday in the journal Science by scientists at Kyoto University in Japan.

They began with genetically reprogrammed skin cells from female fetal mice. The reprogramming technique, discovered several years ago, makes an ordinary cell revert to a kind of blank slate, so it can be chemically prodded to develop into any kind of cell.

The Japanese researchers turned these cells into an early-stage version of eggs. Then they mixed them with mouse ovarian cells and implanted them into mice. Four weeks later they collected immature eggs, matured and fertilized them in the laboratory and placed them into surrogate mother mice. The result: three baby mice, which grew into fertile adults.

That procedure is too cumbersome to be adapted directly for human use, experts said, and study co-author Katsuhiko Hayashi said in an email that it is also too inefficient. What's more, he and others said, biological differences between mice and humans would have to be overcome.

The obstacles are so big that some experts are skeptical about ever using the approach in humans. "I don't think there's a lot of clinical potential here," said David Albertini, who has studied the development of eggs at the University of Kansas.

A human therapy is in "the quite far future," Hayashi said. Clark said it would take at least a decade.

Greely, the Stanford law professor, speculated that in 20 to 40 years, the technique might make couples more likely to go through test-tube fertilization just so they could choose characteristics of their babies. That is because donating skin cells to make eggs would be easier than going through the medical and surgical procedure of having one's own eggs harvested.

The technique raises a host of medical and ethical concerns.

The new work moves scientists closer to the possibility of tinkering with genes that would affect not only one person but also be inherited by future generations, said Dr. George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. And basic research with such eggs could mean making and destroying human embryos in the lab, which many people oppose.

More controversy could arise over using the method for women who are infertile simply because of their age.

"Society is not clear about how it feels about older women having children," said Josephine Johnston of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in Garrison, N.Y. She said there has been no sustained public discussion of "how old is too old, and what does that even mean?"

Mice, born of skin cells, raise human hope, fear 10/04/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 4, 2012 10:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman

    Blogs

    State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home …

    Carlos G. Smith
  2. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  3. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  4. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  5. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.