A team of biologists have now discovered how to make embryos using skin cells, which means the possibility of making mother-less babies may come in the near future.
In a study by some scientists at the University of Bath, it was found that combining sperm and skin cells – or any other kind of non-egg cell – might be possible for conception.
The study was done late last year when the scenario of men conceiving with men was ‘speculative and fanciful’.
However, in a new report, the top embryologists at Harvard and Brown Universities encourage nations to start thinking about the massive effect that would surround mother-less babies.
“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 [in vitro gametogenesis],” they said.
It was said that the eggs can be tricked into developing into an embryo without fertilisation, but the embryos, called parthenogenotes, die after a few days.
Biologists at Bath worked with mice and have developed a method of injecting mouse parthenogenotes with sperm. The result was the creation of a healthy offspring while bypassing the normal process of fertilising an egg cell with sperm.
Although the embryos in the experiment started out as egg cells, the experiment suggests that the same could be done with adult cells.
Yet, Dr. Eli Adashi of Brown University, I. Glenn Cohen, professor at Harvard Law School, and Dr. George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, writing in Science Translational Medicine, warned that this is something that they have contemplated for a while.
“These things may happen, and it may just be a question of time,” said Dr Adashi, who has been tracking the development of IVG, mostly in Japan and the United Kingdom, since 2005.
IVG holds the promise of radically advancing fertility and the ability to intervene against disease at the pre- or post-embryonic stage.
However, the ethical danger here is when people become empowered to create and choose among embryos hoping to have ideal children or ‘designer babies’.
Yet, producing sperm or eggs without the need for functioning reproductive organs could help patients for whom reproductive function has been lost, usually among those who have undergone chemotherapy or a disease, the authors wrote.
IVG could also revolutionize in vitro fertilization because it could vastly expand the supply of eggs.
But, current laws in the US prohibit public funding for the creation of embryos for research.