New technology uses skin cells from one person to alter the genetics of a donated egg, researchers report. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/Healthday

A new technique uses one person's skin cells to change the genetics of donated eggs, researchers report. Photo courtesy: Adobe Stock/Healthday

New technology may soon allow men in same-sex relationships to have children who are genetically related to both fathers, researchers say.

The technique uses one person's skin cells to modify the genetics of donated eggs, researchers reported Friday in the journal Science Advances.

That egg is then fertilized by a sperm cell to create a viable embryo that combines the genetics of the skin donor and sperm donor.

This could not only help same-sex couples have their own children, but also help women who are unable to produce viable eggs for reasons such as old age or cancer treatment.

“The goal is to produce eggs for patients who don't have eggs of their own,” said lead author Shufrat Mitalipov, director of the Center for Embryo Cell and Gene Therapy at Oregon Health and Science University.

Researchers say this is the same technique made famous in 1996 when researchers used it to clone a sheep named Dolly in Scotland.

In this case, while the researchers cloned one parent, the OHSU researchers focused on creating embryos with genetics drawn from both parents.

The OHSU team followed a three-step process to do this in mouse experiments.

They first removed the nucleus from a mouse egg, then transplanted the nucleus from a mouse skin cell into the mouse egg.

Next, they prompted the nucleus of the transplanted skin cell to discard half of its chromosomes in a process similar to that that occurs during cell division to produce mature sperm or egg cells.

Finally, the researchers used in vitro fertilization to fertilize the new egg with sperm, resulting in a healthy embryo with two sets of chromosomes, provided equally by the two parents.

The process could be an easier alternative to competing technologies being tested by other labs around the world, in which skin cells are completely reprogrammed to become egg or sperm cells.

“We're skipping that whole step of cell reprogramming,” researcher Dr. Paula Amato, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at OHSU School of Medicine, said in a school news release. “The advantage of our technique is that it avoids the long culture times required to reprogram cells; over the course of a few months, many deleterious genetic and epigenetic changes can occur. .”

But researchers warn that it will be years before this technology is available to humans.

“This gives us a lot of insight,” Amato said. “But there's still a lot of work to do to understand how these chromosomes pair up and how they faithfully divide to actually reproduce what happens in nature.”

For more information

Planned Parenthood has more information about IVF.

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