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Embryo created from stem cells without egg, sperm

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Embryos

Scientists have made a major step forward to creating life in the laboratory without using sperm or eggs.

Two different kinds of stem cells were combined in a dish – and they grew into an early form of embryo.

Creating embryos from stem cells would create an unlimited supply of identical embryos, which would be useful for medical research.

The development is hoped to shed light on one of the biggest causes of infertility – embryos failing to implant in the womb.

The research was published in Nature.

How does the technology work? Researchers combined two different types of embryonic stem cells from mice.

Once combined in a dish they grew into the early stage of the embryo before it implants in the womb – called a blastocyst – a hollow ball of cells.

When transferred into the womb, the cells initially triggered changes in the womb like those created by a normal embryo aged 3.5 days old, but failed to properly implant.

‘Sperm magnets’, or magnetic-activated cell sorting (MACS), involve collecting sperm samples that are then mixed with a marker protein that contains magnetic particles.

Such samples are then left for around 15 minutes at room temperature.

The protein used, known as Annexin V, binds to a molecule that is produced when dying sperm cells experience degeneration of their membranes.


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