The inability to produce health sperms and eggs has hindered many people’s dream of having children. Though many other alternatives such as adoption can get around this problem, infertility is still a serious medical issue. A recently published research from a group in Japan indicated possibility of producing healthy mouse sex cells (sperm and egg) from normal mouse body cells in a dish.
Sex cells were not derived directly from the body cells. Instead, mouse tail tip cells collected were first induced into pluripotent cells (cells with potential to develop into multiple different cell types), then induced into sperm and eggs. These sex cells produced from a dish can then be used to generate embryos that eventually develop into functional and fertile mice.
Development of this technique has incredible clinical potential. It is not difficult to imagine the promise this technique has for many men and women suffering from infertility; healthy sex cells could be generated from regular body cells and then used for test-tube fertilization. However, at the current state, this technique still poses significant flaw that needs to be addressed: embryos generated using body cell-derived sex cells have slightly slower development process. Additionally, only 3.5% of these embryos successfully develop, compared to 61.7% for embryos generated using regular sex cells. These data suggest that the sex cells generated in a dish are not perfect replicas of regular sex cells. Addressing these issues is a key step before this technology becomes clinically available.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Lara Roach and Rebecca Soto, graduate students from the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Harvard University, for providing their expertise and opinions on this subject matter.
Managing Correspondent: Bing Shui
Original Article: Reconstitution in vitro of the entire cycle of the mouse female germ line – Nature
Media Coverage: Making sex cells from body cells – The Economist