Skip to Content
Biotechnology

Chinese scientists have created mice that have two moms or two dads

October 11, 2018

Using a mash-up of stem cells and cloning technology, a team in Beijing claims to have generated mice with same-sex parents.

What they did: Sexual reproduction usually involves a sperm and an egg. Each brings 23 chromosomes to the party. The baby’s cells then have 46.

To make two-mother mice, the team first generated stem cells from a female mouse with half the usual number of chromosomes (23 instead of 46). Then they injected such a cell into an egg. It played the role of sperm, and some healthy pups were born.  

The team from the Chinese Academy of Science, which describes their work in the journal Cell Stem Cell, also managed to make mice with two fathers, but that took additional steps, and the offspring were none too healthy. Those pups were swollen, had unusually large tongues, and died young.

Why they did it: The exercise is mostly scientific so far, and there’s no intention of using this technology in humans. 

Right now, it’s far too complicated, and not all of the offspring survived. Instead, scientists say they did the work to understand more about reproduction itself. This kind of asexual reproduction happens in some corners of the animal world, but not among mammals. To make it work, the team found they had to delete several chunks of the animals’ genomes—including genes that would normally stop same-sex reproduction from occurring. 

The future: One day—if this technology matures—it might be that possible for two men, or two women, to reproduce together. But it will take a lot more work.

Deep Dive

Biotechnology

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.