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expert reaction to paper describing development of embryos from non-egg cells

In a discovery that challenges two centuries of received biological wisdom, scientists at the University of Bath have for the first time used sperm to fertilise non-egg cells – resulting in live mammalian births. Eggs can be tricked into developing into an embryo without fertilisation, but the embryos, called parthenogenotes, die after a few days. Scientists at Bath have developed a method of injecting mouse parthenogenotes with sperm so that they can go on in many cases to become healthy pups. These comments accompanied a briefing.


Professor Simon Fishel, Managing Director of CARE Fertility, said:

“This is fascinating laboratory research that has been mooted for many years – so congratulations to the authors for its successful development. But mice aren’t human – indeed we are learning more and more that it is not an appropriate model save for an approximate deduction. Hence although it may be theoretically possible, it will take many years to understand the DNA and health risk to humans before contemplating such technology.”


Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute, said:

“I’m not surprised that the authors are excited about this. I think it is a very interesting paper, and a technical tour de force. And I am sure it will tell us something important about reprogramming at these early steps of development that are relevant to both fertilisation and SCNT – and perhaps more broadly about reprogramming of cell fate in other situations. It doesn’t yet tell us how, but the paper gives a number of clear pointers.”


Mice produced by mitotic reprogramming of sperm injected into haploid parthenogenotes’  by Toru Suzuki et al. published in Nature Communications on Tuesday 13th September. 


Declared interests

Professor Simon Fishel: “I am employed by and a shareholder in CARE Fertility.”

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge: Robin Lovell-Badge is a member of the HFEA’s Scientific and Clinical Advances Advisory Group. However, he has no conflicts of interest. Robin Lovell-Badge is also an SMC Advisory Committee member.

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