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Healthy mice born from same-sex parents for first time

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Scientists in China have bred healthy mice from same-sex parents for the first time.

Researchers achieved the feat by altering stem cells from a female mouse and injecting them into the eggs of another female.

They also bred “somewhat unhealthy” offspring from two male mice, but the pups died shortly after birth.

The breakthrough marks the first time researchers have been able to overcome the barriers that prevent same-sex mammals from producing healthy babies.

Mice have reportedly been born from same-sex parents before but they had serious abnormalities.

The process used at the Chinese Academy of Sciences involved “substantial genetic modification” meaning it is “unlikely to be useful in humans for now”.

The mice born from two mothers have now grown into adults and have had healthy offspring of their own via normal intercourse with a male.

The mice with two mothers had their own babies through normal intercourse. Pic: Leyun Wang
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The mice have now had healthy babies of their own. Pic: Leyun Wang

Dr Tim Hore, senior anatomy lecturer at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said: “The researchers in this paper used genetic modification to alter the genes which are expressed in a parent-specific manner in mammals.

“In doing so they were able to artificially overcome some of the usual incompatibility between parents of the same sex, meaning they were able to create relatively healthy offspring with two mothers, and somewhat unhealthy offspring from two fathers that died shortly after birth.”

Scientists have been trying to work out what it makes it so challenging for mammals of the same sex to reproduce.

Animals such as sharks, chickens and Komodo dragons can have children without a genetic contribution from a male.

The researchers in China have noted that there are still obstacles in achieving their feat with other mammals.

Dr Hore said: “The work does fall short of creating mammalian offspring from the same sex in the absence of substantial genetic modification, meaning it is unlikely to be useful in humans for now.”

He added: “In order for same-sex (human) parents to both have genetic contributions to their children in an assisted reproduction setting, it is likely another technological leap will be required.

“One possible approach is using ‘epigenetic-editing’ on haploid stem cells, essentially reprogramming the DNA of one parent so it looks like that of the opposite sex without altering any genetic sequence.”

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Saudi explanation for journalist’s death is ‘credible’

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US president Donald Trump has said he thinks the Saudi explanation for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is “credible”.

Mr Khashoggi went missing on 2 October during a visit to the consulate to get marriage papers and, after weeks of pressure, Saudi Arabia has admitted he died after a fight between him and others at the consulate.

Eighteen people have been arrested and countries such as Turkey have accused Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing.

But US president Donald Trump said the Saudi admission was “a good first step, a big step”, adding that what had happened was “unacceptable”.

He insisted the Saudi leaders had not lied to him when denying prior knowledge of what had happened to Mr Khashoggi, adding that he preferred “retribution [not including] cancelling weapons sales” to the country, which he said the US needed as a counterbalance to Iran.

Demonstrators dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Donald Trump (C) protest outside the White House in Washington, DC, on October 19, 2018, demanding justice for missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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Donald Trump has been criticised for not being tough enough on Saudi Arabia

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders saying Mr Khashoggi’s death was a “tragic incident”.

She said: “The United States acknowledges the announcement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that its investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far.

“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.

“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends.”

Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, lived in the US, having fled Saudi Arabia in September last year.

Saudi Arabia said it “expresses deep regret” over his death and King Salman put his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in charge of re-vamping the country’s intelligence agency.

Mr Khashoggi had been a critic of bin Salman but Reuters news agency quoted a person familiar with the Saudi investigation as insisting that the crown prince had no knowledge of the operation that killed the journalist.

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the house intelligence committee, said that Saudi Arabia’s claim that Mr Khashoggi was “killed while brawling with a team of more than a dozen dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not credible”.

Mr Schiff said that if Mr Khashoggi was fighting inside the consulate, he was “fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him”.

If US president Donald Trump’s Republican administration do not hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Mr Khashoggi’s death, congress would, he added.

On the Republican side, senator Lindsey Graham, who has been critical of Saudi Arabia in the past, said he doubted the Saudi explanation for Mr Khashoggi’s death.

He wrote on Twitter: “To say that I am sceptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr Khashoggi is an understatement.

“First we were told Mr Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement.

“Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of crown prince.

“It’s hard to find this latest “explanation” as credible.”

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Journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed at consulate in Turkey

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Saudi Arabia has confirmed Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul after a fight broke out.

Mr Khashoggi, 59, went missing on 2 October during a visit to the consulate to get marriage papers and pressure had been growing on Saudi Arabia to explain his disappearance.

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor was quoted on state television as saying that a fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.

An official Saudi source said “discussions” between Mr Khashoggi and others at the consulate “did not go as required and developed in a negative way, leading to a fight and a quarrel”.

The source added that “the brawl aggravated to lead to his death and their attempt to conceal and cover what happened”.

Eighteen Saudis have been arrested so far in connection with the journalist’s death and the state news agency said the kingdom “expresses its deep regret” over Mr Khashoggi’s death.

In other developments, one of Saudi Arabia’s top intelligence officials, Ahmed El Asiri, has been sacked, as has royal court adviser Saud Al Qahtani.

The Saudi rulers were expected to say that General Asiri received orders from Prince Mohammed bin Salman to capture Mr Khashoggi for an interrogation in Saudi Arabia, but either misunderstood or overstepped them, according to two of the people familiar with Saudi plans who were quoted in the New York Times.

Demonstrators dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Donald Trump (C) protest outside the White House in Washington, DC, on October 19, 2018, demanding justice for missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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Donald Trump has been criticised for being soft on the Saudi leadership

Concerns grew for Mr Khashoggi’s safety after Turkish authorities said he had been killed in a premeditated murder.

An official, speaking to Reuters news agency, said at the time: “We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate.”

A senior police source told online news website Middle East Eye the journalist had been “brutally murdered, killed and cut into pieces”.

“Everything was videotaped to prove the mission had been accomplished and the tape was taken out of the country,” the source said.

Mr Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice, pictured waiting in front of the consulate, has not seen him since he entered the building
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Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice has not seen him since he entered the building

US president Donald Trump was criticised for not being tough enough on Saudi Arabia, saying that it was “too early” to determine consequences.

A White House statement described the murder as a “tragic incident”.

Turkish officials accused Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing and a number of countries, including the UK, pulled out of a major investment summit in Riyadh next week in protest.

Saudi consulate in Istanbul
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Mr Khashoggi went missing while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul

Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford said from Istanbul that confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death was “not too much of a surprise from our sources in Turkey“.

“I think the Saudi just thought there was nowhere else to go – they had to admit it.

“Now they’ve been backed into a corner where they’ve had to admit something very badly went wrong.”

Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, fled Saudi Arabia for Washington in September 2017, months after Prince Mohammed was appointed heir to the throne.

More from Jamal Khashoggi

He had been criticised by Saudi authorities for being too progressive and he had described Prince Mohammed as a “brash and abrasive young innovator” – and even said he was “acting like Putin”.

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Journalist’s killing was ‘tragic incident’

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The US has described the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a “tragic incident”.

Mr Khashoggi went missing on 2 October during a visit to the consulate to get marriage papers and, after weeks of pressure, Saudi Arabia has admitted he died after a fight between him and others at the consulate.

Eighteen people have been arrested and countries such as Turkey have accused Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing.

But the US stopped short of such strong language, with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders saying Mr Khashoggi’s death was a “tragic incident”.

She said: “The United States acknowledges the announcement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that its investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far.

“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.

“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends.”

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