Imagine if a woman who finally found love in her 40s didn’t have to worry about her biological clock.
Imagine if someone could create a science that would allow for same-sex or transgender parents to have children biologically related to both of them.
Imagine if someone who survived cancer and underwent radiation wouldn’t have to additionally worry about the impact of that experience on their fertility.
This could all be possible with the help of IVG or in vitro gametogenesis.
WHAT IS IVG?
To break it down, IVG is the process of transforming an induced pluripotent stem cell into either a viable sperm or egg. An induced pluripotent stem cell is a kind of stem cell taken from one’s skin or blood that can be reprogrammed into different types of human cells, removing age and sex as factors of importance.
In Japan, Katsuhiko Hayashi and Mitinori Saitou, two extremely intelligent reproductive biologists, have already achieved this using mice. These scientists have created sperm and eggs from the skin cells of mice, produced baby mice from these, and those babies proved to be capable of reproducing.
This not only is a major breakthrough, but it stemmed a rush to accomplish the same in humans and other species. Start-ups, medical institutions, and various other corporations are racing to be the first.
One biotech startup, Conception, claims to be making progress towards IVG for humans. Their claim is that they have produced human ovarian follicles within the “mini ovaries” they have created using stem cells collected. Their ultimate goal is for these to develop into eggs.
Despite all the amazing possibilities associated with this new technology, it has a multitude of critiques.
One of the biggest worries is the ethical concerns, particularly relating to a worry based on dystopian novels and films, that it will lead to a hyperfixation of creating perfect babies.
Others are fearful of whether or not DNA will then be stolen and used, especially from celebrities, as well as if people can use the DNA of individuals who have passed.
Some are skeptical of the company Conception’s progress as they have not published much information or any peer-reviewed articles.
There are many scholars and scientists who strongly disagree with these criticisms.
In terms of Conception’s lack of peer-reviewed research, this is a privacy concern especially when corporations are racing to be the first to create this new technology.
WHAT MIGHT THIS MEAN FOR US?
You may be wondering what this means for the world of surrogacy and egg donation.
The ability to produce eggs and sperm out of DNA would obviously not change the various restrictions on one’s ability to carry and birth a child such as sex and age.
Overall, this technology would lead to people conceiving increasingly later in life, a pattern already occurring as life expectancy increases.
Based on these ideas, if IVG becomes a viable reproductive method, a surge in the need for gestational surrogates is highly likely.
On the other hand, egg donation services would be likely to decrease, depending on the cost of this process, as not only is egg donation expensive, but most people would choose to use their own DNA if given the option.
However, none of these issues are of imminent worry yet as it may be a long time before this technology is viable for human use.