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No Sex Needed: Humans Can Soon Have Babies Without Using Eggs

Sep 15, 2016 03:51 AM EDT

Scientists from the University of Bath have successfully produced a live and healthy offspring without using fertilized egg cells in lab mice.

Their research, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that it is possible for mammals, even humans, to reproduce by only using a combination of any ordinary cells in the body and a sperm, making it possible for gay couple to have their own child with their own DNA.

"This is the first time that anyone has been able to show that anything other than an egg can combine with a sperm in this way to give rise to offspring," Dr Anthony Perry, one of the researchers of the study, told BBC News. "It overturns nearly 200 years of thinking."

For their study, the researchers first created a pseudo-embryo by exposing mouse eggs to a chemical bath containing a salt called strontium chloride (SrCl2). This salt could trick the egg into becoming a "fake" embryo that shares some similarities with ordinary cells, such as skin cells. The researchers then injected sperm into the chemically-modified embryos to try and jumpstart the reprogramming process. The pseudo-eggs were then planted in surrogate mothers.

In normal fertilization, the egg completely strips the sperm's DNA and reprograms it to stop behaving like a sperm and start acting like an embryo. The researchers are still not sure how this reprogramming process works, but the result of the study suggests that the conventional reprogramming process during normal fertilization occurs differently in their experiments.

No evidence suggesting that the same method is applicable to humans was found during their research. However, researchers believe it is still very likely.

"Yes, the cells are special-a parthenogenote and a sperm-but imagine if any mitotic cell could reprogram a sperm in the same way," Dr Perry told Gizmodo. "Then there would be no need for eggs."

If proven to be possible, same-sex couples can soon have a child of their own. It is also possible for a single man to have a child using his own ordinary cell and sperm, which could result to the child being more like a non-identical twin of the man.

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