A team of scientists in Japan has successfully created immature human egg cells from human blood. This is a major breakthrough in the field of stem cell research that may potentially lead to producing babies in a lab using the body tissues or blood of their relatives.
For this study, scientists used human blood cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells, which are notable for their ability to become any type of cell. These cells were then injected into tiny, artificial ovaries that were grown in the lab using embryonic cells derived from mice.
The produced eggs are far too immature to be fertilized, much less grow into a human child. In any case, they open the way for babies produced using the genetic material of relatives, dead or alive. They could likewise give an approach to infertile people or same-sex partners to create a child produced using their own particular DNA.
Scientists Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford said, “If we can make human eggs and sperm from skin cells it opens up an enormous number of possibilities for changing how humans reproduce.”
“For example, easy access to eggs might mean it would become routine to scan the DNA of embryos before anyone tries to have a baby.”
“Doing genetic testing basically on a large chunk of every generation of babies before they even become fetuses — while they’re still embryos — and having parents and potentially governments pick and chose which embryos go on to become babies — that has lots of implications.”
Scientists are further planning to apply a similar process to the production of human sperm and to create egg cells that are mature enough to be fertilized. This will not only require a lot more research but creating viable human eggs in a lab is also sure to be incredibly controversial.
Ronald Green, a bioethicist at Dartmouth said, “For example, it could open the door for cloning people who may not have given their consent. A woman might want to have George Clooney’s baby and his hairdresser could start selling his hair follicles online. So we suddenly could see many, many progenies of George Clooney without his consent.”
The work is reported in the journal Science and seen by other scientists as an important development.