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Scientists in China are helping mice of the same sex bear pups with gene editing and stem cells. A new study shows the first time that pups born from male mice were carried to full term. Previously, this effort had been only successful with female mice, National Geographic reports.

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The future is female regarding this study, as mice born from two mothers appeared healthy and were able to bear their own young, while pups with two fathers died shortly after birth. Only two out of the twelve born, survived more than 48 hours. Wei Li, a senior author from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says, “We saw that the defects in bi-maternal mice can be eliminated and that bi-paternal reproduction barriers in mammals can also be crossed through imprinting modifications.”

While the science isn’t ready to research on humans, the study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, provides more knowledge of the obstacles preventing genetic coupling between individuals of the same sex. Despite these advances, the study raises many questions regarding ethics, especially concerning the health of future offspring.

Azim Surani, a developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge with no affiliation with the study, warns, “When you do the gene targeting, you may get some unintended side effects. You may alter other sequences which you didn’t mean to alter.” Such changes in the genome are passed through generations, this includes any negative side-effects. Sonia Suter, a law professor specializing in bioethics and health policy at George Washington University, says “We’re going to have to really think hard, as a society about what our threshold should be for doing this kind of research.”

While the transmission of these results to humans is not a primary focus for researchers, they’re not ruling out the possibility. “We can’t assert this technique could never be used in humans in the future,” Li says.

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Header image by Tibor Janosi Mozes via Pixabay

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