In-vitro gametogenesis – a new procedure for creating gametes from stem cells – should be the subject of a debate from this point forwards, according to three American scientists: Eli Adashi, Professor of Medical Sciences at Brown University on Rhode Island, Glenn Cohen, Law Professor at Harvard Law School, and George Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School. In an article published yesterday in the Science Translational Medicine journal, they describe “the pros and cons” anticipated with this technique.
In-vitro gametogenesis has not been used in humans to date but in November, Japanese scientists reported the birth of mice created from the skin cells of their “parents” (see Des chercheurs japonais se lancent dans la création d’ovocytes artificiels – Japanese scientists embark on artificial egg creation). This field of research “is advancing at an incredible pace,” explained scientists and a level of awareness is imposed nowadays because this procedure could have a “dramatic impact”. It could lead to the “development of embryos on a massive scale” to give parents a “designer child”.
The creation of in-vitro sperm and eggs from skin cells is possible by reprogramming the skin cells into stem cells (iPS) (see Des gamètes humains artificiels créés à partir de cellules souches – artificial human gametes created from stem cells). These iPS cells are then developed into gametes, sperm or eggs. This will circumvent the problem of obtaining eggs for in-Vitro fertilisation and the presence of reproductive organs should become optional. The perspective of producing gametes – and therefore embryos – in unlimited quantities is looming. A couple could therefore choose the embryo to implant “from a pool of around one hundred”. The authors stress that these science fiction scenarios could become reality.
This technique paves the way to other options: “Homosexual couples could have 100% biological children” (see Des enfants issus du patrimoine génétique de leurs parents homosexuels ? – children conceived from the genetic material of their homosexual parents?). There is nothing to prevent the creation of eggs and sperm from the same person”, commented Eli Adashi. He is also concerned about the possibility of becoming an “unwilling parent” since it is easy to obtain skin cells without a person knowing.
Rather than promote the element of “surprise” through advances in this field of research, the three authors are recommending a large-scale ethical debate on the issue. “In-vitro gametogenesis may become a reality – it’s only a matter of time”, announced Doctor Eli Adashi.
Science Translational Medicine (11/01/2017)
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