Researchers in Japan are progressing in vitro gametogenesis (IVG), a field of biomedical research aimed at creating unlimited supplies of “artificial” eggs and sperm from any cell in the human body.
About the technique: IVG involves reprogramming cells from a person’s blood or skin into induced pluripotent stem cells, which can theoretically become any cell in the body, including egg and sperm cells. These cells could be used to enable anyone, including those who are older, infertile, single, gay or transgender, to have genetically related children.
Technical challenges: Katsuhiko Hayashi, a developmental geneticist at Osaka University in Japan, is a pioneer in the field of IVG. According to NPR, Hayashi has made significant progress in the field, particularly in mice, and believes that the technology could be applied to humans in the near future. However, there are still technical and ethical challenges to overcome.
While basic human eggs and sperm have been produced using this method, creating embryos is still a challenge. Researchers estimate that it may take another five to 10 years for a reliable proof of concept and another 10 to 20 years of testing for safety before IVG can be used in clinics.
Ethical and safety concerns: While Japan is considering allowing scientists to create IVG embryos for research, these developments raise complex ethical and societal questions that require thoughtful consideration. The ethical concerns surrounding IVG are profound, including questions about age limits for IVG baby-making, the potential for creating designer babies and issues related to the exploitation and commercialization of reproduction.
The technology could also potentially be misused to create babies without the genetic contributors’ consent, and it may challenge existing legal frameworks. Further research is still needed to navigate these complex issues.