Conceiving babies without eggs could soon be possible based on the findings of a University of Bath study. Scientists at the Department of Biology & Biochemistry at the University of Bath demonstrated that an offspring can be made from non-egg cells.

It has been known that eggs can be tricked into developing into an embryo without fertilisation. However, the resulting embryos or parthenogenotes die after a few days because they still need the input of sperm for normal development.

For their study published on Sept. 13 in the journal Nature Communications, the University of Bath research team injected mouse parthenogenotes with sperm that resulted to healthy baby mice. They assert that the success rate is around 24 percent.

The work challenges the dogma that only an egg cell fertilized with a sperm cell can create a live offspring, says the study’s senior author molecular embryologist Tony Perry. Perry adds, “This is the first time that full-term development has been achieved by injecting sperm into embryos. It had been thought that only an egg cell was capable of reprogramming sperm to allow embryonic development to take place.”

The researchers are aware that creating babies without eggs has ethical implications. Nevertheless, they say that their findings could help human fertility treatment and in saving endangered species.

“This is an exciting piece of research which may help us to understand more about how human life begins and what controls the viability of embryos, mechanisms which may be important in fertility. It may one day even have implications for how we treat infertility, though that’s probably still a long way off,” says study researcher Paul Colville-Nash of the Medical Research Council (MRC), the institution that funded this research.

Collaborators of the research include researchers from the University of Regensburg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine in Germany.