Using skin cells extracted from mice, researchers in Japan have produced fully functional egg cells that were used to produce healthy mouse pups. Should the method work in humans, it could introduce powerful new ways of treating infertility—and even allow same-sex couples to produce biological offspring.
This is the first time ever that scientists have produced functional mammalian eggs entirely within the confines of a petri dish. In a new study published in Nature Research, Katsuhiko Hayashi and colleagues from Kyushu University in Japan describe a new technique in which viable “artificial eggs” can be generated with stem cells, and then fertilized to produce healthy and fertile mouse pups. It’s also the first time that eggs have been produced entirely outside of a mouse.
Egg cells are the only type of cell in the body capable of dividing and producing all of the distinct and highly specialized cells in an organism. Scientists have tried to understand how these cells develop by trying to replicate the process in the lab.