Can babies be made from your very own skin?
The idea is preposterous. But scientists beg to differ. Recently science achieved groundbreaking success in producing healthy mice progeny through a process referred to as ‘IVG,’ in vitro gametogenesis, a revolutionary process where embryonic stem cells are remodeled to become sex cells!
Scientists carried out the experiment by producing early development mice eggs through stem cells procured from the tails of the mice. Upon maturation, the eggs were fertilized with mice sperm and then successfully implanted in surrogate female mice. This technology, however, is still in its early days.
We are now aware that it is possible to produce eggs from mice skin cells, but it is yet to be developed into a process that could be viable in our species. The mice models’ success, however, demonstrates the potential of this technique.
IVG has the potential to revolutionize fertility medicine. It is a possible hope for infertile couples, even those patients who are unable to bear children due to previous chemotherapy. Scientists could procure skin cells from chemotherapy patients and transform them into healthy, viable sperm or eggs that could have potentially turned infertile due to chemo.
So What Could This Mean For The Future Of Fertility Treatments?
IVG, in summary, could basically prove to be a technique that renders the demands of traditionally securing egg donors, defunct. Couples, who undergo the grueling process of fertility treatments, will no longer be made to pick from a limited number of viable embryos. Instead, they could possibly have the choice of a vast pool.
It also has the potential of transforming the biological mechanism of conception. In theory, it is possible that the process of IVG is utilized for developing egg cells from skin cells procured from a man! Thereby creating opportunities for same-sex couples to have their own children that biologically share both parents’ DNA.
This could completely alter the dynamics of same-sex parenting, as currently these couples make the heartbreaking decision of which partner would get to become the biological parent through IVF. Some same-sex couples would forego this controversial decision and chose to simply adopt.
Ethical Issues To Be Considered
Mayhap it is a testament to the potential of this marvelous technique, but scientists need to consider the possible ethical dilemmas of IVG.
For example, if this procedure becomes affordable and accessible in the future, there could be the likelihood of ‘embryo farming’ that some claim can trivialize human life. The bigger the pool of possible embryos for parents to pick from, combined with the progress in technology that allows you to edit genes, the greater the possibility of ‘designer babies’.
There is also the other more pressing concern of legal rights and the responsibility of each parent towards the child if he or she happens to share the DNA of three or more parents.
However, at the moment, it is hard to foresee when this technology can be viable in humans. Currently, any attempts to recreate the results from the mice experiment in human beings, and even, primates have proven to be unsuccessful.
As usual, science is persevering. And as the authors of the study state: “With science and medicine hurtling forward at breakneck speed, the rapid transformation of reproductive and regenerative medicine may surprise us. Before the inevitable, society will be well advised to strike and maintain a vigorous public conversation on the ethical challenges of IVG.”