Couple of week’s “Nature Communications press release” made me curious as a scientist to read the unconventional study and follow up on its scientific innovation.
However, few hours after, I could not believe my eyes seeing this title “Mouse sperm generate viable offspring without fertilization in an egg”; “Making embryos from a non-egg cell“. It didn’t stop here, less than 24h passed and the Telegraph headline was: “Motherless babies possible as scientists create live offspring without need for female egg,” followed by The Guardian: “Skin cells might be used instead of eggs to make embryos, scientists say.” Some stories even went far and claimed that “… could make it possible for a gay couple to have a baby by fusing sperm from one man with the skin cell of another.”
Personally, I find it really fascinating that media, including well known magazines/newspapers that employ experienced journalists, stretched their work ethics so far to create blockbuster story.
Original publications do not reveal futuristic way of embryogenesis neither its future applications. To make it clear, up today, egg cells are still irreplaceable for human embryo creation.
Scientists from Bath University in United Kingdom used egg cell (oocytes) to create the mouse pups. However, they used chemically promoted cell division, instead of sperm trigger fertilization. During the first division stage (parthenogenotes = early embryo containing only half as many chromosomes than the usual sperm fertilized egg) they removed one cell from a two-cell division – and then injected a sperm cell. As a results, roughly a quarter of the cell combinations developed into a mouse pup. Moreover, the cell egg still contains an unknown and powerful factors that enable the first steps of embryo development. Authors of the report showed that he egg cell magic is still present even after it has been tricked into dividing from one cell into two without naming the novel factors or mentioning skin cells.
It simply took 24h for the media to create misleading and full of speculation tabloid scientific headlines. I would like that this story would rise your criticism and self-judgment level when you stumble upon similar stories in the future.