New Technique Allows Stem Cells to be harvested from Unfertilized Eggs
To prompt an unfertilized egg to yield stem cells by itself, the researchers applied chemicals to the egg. One such chemical mimics sperm-triggered spikes of calcium that occur naturally in eggs during fertilization. The chemicals prompted the egg to contribute both halves of the genetic material necessary for a complete zygote from both its nucleus and a polar body, an inactive cell in the egg. Stem cells from a number of such zygotes were cultured into three primary tissue types that were genetically similar to their donors, reducing the likelihood of rejection in by the donor’s immune system.
Although the technology’s practicality may be limited—only women could benefit from it—it could complement other methods used to obtain human stem cells. It also heralds new research approaches to stem cell production and sheds light on the earliest stages of human reproduction.