Scientists will one day be able to create babies without sperm and eggs, says British in-vitro fertilization specialist, Stephen Hillier. Hillier made the declaration during a keynote address at the British Fertility Society, The Daily Mail reports.
“Probably you will just need a couple of hairs, to pop them in an envelope, send them to Amazon and you will get a pre-loaded embryo transfer catheter back,” he quipped. ‘The knowledge and all the research suggests that at some time in the future it will be possible.’
Although he was making a joke about Amazon one day being able to make babies on demand, he said that that experiments on animals show that you can actually create sperm and egg cells from any cell in the body. So, it could, therefore, be possible for human cells as well. Another speaker at the event supported Hillier’s bold claims reminding the audience that at one time I.V.F was considered science fiction too now it’s become an accepted part of our reality.
As The New York Times reports, the ability to create babies using skin and hair cells, officially known as in vitro gametogenesis could be groundbreaking. It will mean that same-sex couples will be able to have children who are related to both partners. Currently, in vitro fertilization requires the retrieval of eggs from women who struggle with infertility. The process takes a long time and costs a lot of money. Creating babies from skin and hair cells could simplify the process.
But there are people in the field who are concerned about the potential consequences. One stem cell researcher told the NYT that the process could start to resemble cloning if both sperm and egg cells are made from the skin cells of one person. Eggs could become plentiful and lead to the creation of “designer babies.”
Then there are some who are concerned about people harvesting skin cells or hair from celebrities, left behind in hotels or spas, and using that DNA to create babies. In I.V.F circles, this is called the “Brad Pitt” scenario. There’s also a potential issue of “multiplex parents.” As one law professor put it, two pairs of parents could each create one embryo, then take an egg from an embryo and sperm from another thereby making a baby with four parents.
The legal consequences of this are unknown at this point and new frameworks will most likely have to be developed if in vitro gametogenesis becomes as commonplace as in vitro fertilization.