2-father babies a possibility 'in two years', research suggests
Babies of same-sex couples are becoming a future prospect, as scientists have disclosed revolutionary research on making human egg and sperm cells using the skin of two adults.
It means that we might soon see a fully “dish-manufactured” baby, the Sunday Times reported.
The study was carried out by Cambridge University and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, and funded by the Wellcome Trust.
The peculiarity of stem cells is that they can be modified into any tissue in the body.
“We have succeeded in the first and most important step of this process, which is to show we can make these very early human stem cells in a dish,” Azim Surani, professor of physiology and reproduction at Cambridge, who heads the project and participated in the creation of the first test-tube baby in 1978, told the Sunday Times.
After producing engineered sperm cells, the researchers compared these with natural human stem cells from aborted fetuses, and checked that the two had identical characteristics.
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An interesting detail detected by the scientists is that the cell is “regenerated and reset” in the process of “reprogramming”, so it doesn’t age or have genetic mistakes.
The researchers used the skin cells of five adults. Prior to this successful attempt, scientists had managed to create baby mice from engineered egg and sperm cells.
The research says that the gene SOX17, deemed insignificant in mice, turned out to be essential in the process of “reprogramming” human cells. Details were published in the Cell journal.
The specialist heading the Israeli side of the project, Jacob Hanna, said it may be possible to create a baby in just two years, and the gay community was particularly excited by the opportunity.
“It has already caused interest from gay groups because of the possibility of making egg and sperm cells from parents of the same sex,” he said.
Apart from helping same-sex families out, the study may prove efficient in dealing with infertility, in particular in those who survived childhood diseases like cancer.
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“I am not in favor of creating engineered humans and the social and ethical implications . . . need to be thought through, but I am very confident it will work and will be very relevant to anyone who has lost their fertility through disease,” Jacob Hanna added.
As the Israeli researcher states, there is controversy connected with implementing the breakthrough discovery, both ethical and legal. The use of engineered sperm and egg cells could lead to changes in the law, the Sunday Times reported.
At the center of the ethical debate is the concept of people “designing” their children, ahead of the motion to approve the so-called “three-parent baby”technology at the House of Lords later this week.
Lately, leading scientists across the globe have been warning the UK government over their plans to introduce laws that would allow the production of embryos using genetic material from three adults.