Scientists from Cambridge University have created artificial human eggs and sperm for the first time, using human embryonic stem cells and skin cells.

Reuters / Yves Herman

While this process was previously achieved in rats, this is the first time it has been done with humans. The findings were published in the journal 'Cell.'

However, the end result was not working sperm and eggs, but so-called germ cells that could potentially mature to become viable for fertility.

“Germ cells are ‘immortal’ in the sense that they provide an enduring link between all generations, carrying genetic information from one generation to the next,” Azim Surani, professor of physiology and reproduction at the University of Cambridge, said in a press release.

In biology, when an egg is fertilized by sperm, it divides into a group of cells called a blastocyst, which then develops into a fetus or the placenta.

Some cells become stem cells, which can then develop into any cell in the body. Some of these will become germ cells, and will then become sperm or eggs.

The scientists identified a gene known as SOX17, which decides which cells become sperm and egg cells. They then harvested these cells by culturing human embryonic stem cells for five days.

However, this doesn’t mean that men and women can donate any cells instead of sperm and eggs when they visit a fertility clinic – but the scientists hope the experiment will shed more light on the study of human genetics.


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