Couples with fertility woes may soon have biological children without the need for egg or sperm donors as scientists disclosed creation of early-stage germ cells using skin from two adults of the same sex. It would not be long before same-sex couples, aged couples and infertile couples could raise their very own kids, rendering adoption a less favorable option.
In a Wellcome Trust-funded research, specialists from Cambridge University and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science were able to produce primordial human egg and sperm cells using skins of ten different donors. Based on test results, artificial germ cells were no different to natural human stem cells.
The engineered cells, according to researchers, would prove useful in creating a repair kit for any organ in the body, not just reproductive organs. This is because the engineered cells are reportedly free from genetic mistakes and ageing damage.
Azim Surani, a physiology and reproduction professor at Cambridge, stated that the germ cells are not affected by epigenetic mutations – cell anomalies due to ageing. Surani explained that the primitive germ cell they have created regenerates and resets. The Cambridge professor who heads the current stem cell research was involved in a 1978 project that led to the production of the first test-tube baby, Louis Brown.
Meanwhile, Jacob Hanna, leader of the research’s Israeli arm, said they can create a fully manufactured baby in two years. However, she is not favor of producing engineered babies due to the social and legal implications involved. Nevertheless, she said that the findings would help those with fertility issues.
Other experts in the field expressed their opinions regarding the recent findings. Some were supportive, enthusiastic even, about the breakthrough. However, some remain skeptical and critical saying that the creation of artificial germ cells would lead to the concept of “designing” babies.
Although the news have stirred interest and support among gay groups all over the world, they need to wait several years or so before they can enjoy results, if any. Right now, British law prohibits the use of artificial cells to treat infertility, and the UK’s motion to approve the “three-parent baby” technology had been under fire in a seemingly never-ending ethical debate.