Chinese scientists managed to obtain offspring from a single unfertilized egg from a mouse. A group of researchers described their method in a research paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Parthenogenesis, also known as parthenogenesis, It is a type of sexual reproduction that consists in the development of the descendants of the ovum without the participation of sperm. It occurs naturally in aphids, fish, reptiles, scorpions, moths and some bees, but not in mammals. In mammals, sexual reproduction is the combination of male DNA with female DNA, and the resulting offspring possess the genetic material of both parents.

Previous research has shown that most cells in mammals are copies of the parents’ genes, but some are not – instead coming from only the mother or only the father. This aspect was used in their work by Chinese researchers: Yanchang Wei, Cai-Rong Yang and Zhen-Ao Zhao.

How was the search?

As the researchers note, previous attempts to impose parthenogenesis in mammals failed due to genetic imprinting. The researchers got around this problem using a different approach. First, they took an egg from a mouse, and then, using CRISPR (a genome-editing system), they altered the genes to mimic those that the male parent would have passed on during natural fertilization. Then, an enzyme was injected into the female gamete, which activated some genes to make the genes in the egg similar to those fertilized by the father.

At the next stage, the egg is implanted into the uterus of the female, where the embryo develops. The researchers repeated this process with several eggs, implanting them all together in a single mouse’s uterus. Mice usually give birth to eight to 12 pups at a time. All the puppies survived birth, but only one of them lived to adulthood – and it was good enough that he also fathered offspring.

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The researchers suggest that parthenogenesis in mammals is possible, although they acknowledge that there is still much work to be done before it can be used in real applications. They also suggest that a refinement of this process could lead to agricultural or medicinal uses.

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