In Vitro Gametogenesis Reimagines Designer Babies

In Vitro Gametogenesis Reimagines Designer Babies

In Vitro Gametogenesis (IVG) is the latest technique in the realm of reproduction to face both encouragement and resistance from the medical field and the public. IVG has the potential to take In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) one step further with regards to creating human embryos for couples who would otherwise struggle to do so. While IVF makes it possible to combine a sperm and an egg (gametes) into an embryo inside a petri dish before placing the embryo back in the uterus and continuing the pregnancy as usual, IVG eliminates the need for the traditional starting materials. The up and coming procedure encompasses the “artificial construction of gametes,” and all it requires is a specialized cell from the adult donor [1]. Rather than donating sperm or eggs, couples can contribute something as simple as a skin cell.

The scientific potential of IVG is overwhelming. The ease with which it can be used to produce gametes and combine them into embryos could possibly lead to the mass production of embryos at a very little cost. From there, typical questions concerning designing humans with specific genes and characteristics start to rise to the fore [1]. These issues haven’t materialized to the degree that many feared when IVF arrived on the scene, primarily due to the fact that using donor gametes rarely results in the growth of numerous viable embryos. While sperm and eggs may be scarce, however, skin cells certainly are not, and that is all that IVG requires. In addition, skin cells are everywhere, and many people have raised the issue of how people can prevent others from stealing and using their skin cells for use in IVG.

The scientists working on the IVG procedure have been quick to point to its powerful benefits. Most importantly, it could enable “women to become pregnant even if… they have no viable eggs” [2]. There are various causes of infertility in women, including cancer and age, and this technique could provide such individuals with an opportunity from which they were otherwise alienated.

While this technique is yet to be implemented in humans and has a long road to go before it becomes an actual question of policy, it has already sparked serious debate in a wide range of disciplines. Like many other concepts emerging from the scientific frontier, it has potential implications that are simultaneously helpful for those in need and possibly excessive for those who are not. The viability of the questions and concerns currently on the table will be clarified as IVG research continues.

References:

  1. Sharma, Shruti. “Designer babies and the future of bioethics.” Livemint. April 6, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2017. http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/X4kFQCibqJGtuxHKhzdexL/Designer-babies-and-the-future-of-bioethics.html.

  2. Mullin, Emily. “Eggs from Skin Cells? Here’s Why the Next Fertility Technology Will Open Pandora’s Box.” MIT Technology Review. January 11, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2017. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603343/eggs-from-skin-cells-heres-why-the-next-fertility-technology-will-open-pandoras-box/.

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