Tuesday, December 30, 2014

skin cells transformed into egg and sperm, epigenetic changes can be REMOVED

The Guardian | Scientists have made primitive forms of artificial sperm and eggs in a medical feat that could transform the understanding of age-related diseases and fertility problems.
Researchers in Cambridge made the early-stage sex cells by culturing human embryonic stem cells under carefully-controlled conditions for a week.
They followed the success by showing that the same procedure can convert adult skin tissue into precursors for sperm and eggs, raising the prospect of making sex cells that are genetically matched to patients.
The cells should have the potential to grow into mature sperm and eggs, though this has never been done in the lab before. The next step for the researchers will be to inject the cells into mouse ovaries or testes to see if they fully develop in the animals.
Perhaps more intriguingly, the cells may hold the secrets for treating certain age-related diseases. As people age they accumulate not only genetic mutations, but other changes to their DNA. These epigenetic changes can be caused by smoking, exposure to chemicals in the environment, or diet and other lifestyle factors. But the cells that form sperm and eggs are wiped clean of their epigenetic changes early on. “This could tell us how to erase these epigenetic mutations. Epigenetics is used to regulate gene expression, but in age-related diseases, these changes can be aberrant and misregulate genes,” Surani said.


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