MELBOURNE - In a breakthrough study, Chinese researchers have been able to create live fertile mice by reprogramming skin cells into powerful stem cells.

They used induced pluripotent skin cells, or iPS cells, which were reprogrammed, to look and act like embryonic stem cells.

The mice thus created went on to have babies, the first of which has been called Xiao Xiao, or Tiny.

Lead researcher Dr Fanyi Zeng of the Shanghai Institute of Medical Genetics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University believe that it is theoretically possible to clone someone using skin cells.

“We are confident that tremendous good can come from demonstrating the versatility of reprogrammed cells in mice, and this research will be used to,” ABC Online quoted Zeng as saying.

“This gives us hope for future therapeutic interventions, using the patient’s own reprogrammed cells in the far future.

“It would not be ethical to attempt to use iPS cells in human reproduction. It is important for science to have ethical boundaries … [the study was] in no way meant as a first step in that direction,” she added.

During the study, the researchers injected pluripotent skin cells into a tetraploid blastocyst, a group of cells that can only become placental tissue.

They created 37 iPS stem cell lines, and of these, three generated live births.

“One line can generate such competent mice that the longest living one we have is nine months,” said Zeng.

“It has generated now more than 100 of second-generation [mice] and more than 100 third-generation [mice]. It really demonstrates how fertile and strong the system is,” she added.

Another group of researchers in China also reported to have created whole mice from iPS cells.

The findings appear in journal Nature. (ANI)