March 28, 2016

Designer Babies Made From Skin Cells and Sperm, May Eliminate Sex and Disabled Persons

[From article]
It has played a key role in the evolution of life on Earth, allowing a mixture of genetic material to be passed on from generation to generation.
But sex, which almost every animal and plant on the planet uses to reproduce, could be about to come to an end for one species – our own.
An expert on the ethics of genetics at Stanford University has claimed humans may be on the cusp of a monumental change in the way we breed, using laboratories rather than the bedroom to create children.[. . .]
Professor Hank Greely argues that couples will use genetic material from a few skin cells to create eggs which will then be fertilised using sperm samples taken from the prospective father.
[. . .]
According to The Times, Professor Greely said: 'In 20 to 40 years, when a couple wants a baby, he'll provide sperm and she'll provide a punch of skin.
'Parents will get the embryos grouped by categories. One category will very severe, untreatable, nasty diseases.
'This will affect one to two per cent of embryos. Another category will be other diseases. The theird is cosmetic – hair, eyes, shape, whether the hair goes white early.
'We don't know much about this yet, but we will. A fourth category is behavioural – I think here information will be limited.'
Professor Greely outlines his vision of the future in his book The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction.

He argues that stem cell technology already makes it possible to do much of what he has outlined.
Genetic tests are already used to pinpoint certain conditions in embryos used in IVF procedures and the growing understanding of the genome is extending this all the time.
Scientists have also shown it is possible to grow reproductive cells like eggs and sperm in the laboratory using stem cells.
Professor Greely says using a combination of cloning and stem cell technologies it may be possible to save women from the invasive procedures needed to harvest eggs for IVF.
Instead genetic material could be removed from a skin cell – taken from the woman's body – and then used to create stem cells.
These can then be encouraged to grow into eggs that can then be fertilised using conventional IVF techniques.
[. . .]
Professor Greely says parents advances in this technology is leading to what he calls 'easy preimplantation genetic diagnosis'. This will make sexless reproduction cheaper and easier than more traditional methods.
He says that while such procedures could be expensive, it could ultimately save society huge sums by effectively eliminating serious genetic diseases.
This could lead many to consider babies creating using old-fashioned sex as irresponsible.
But the technology could also bring serious ethical problems.
Many people are opposed to using genetic techniques to select 'designer babies' and compare it to playing God.

Professor Greely added: 'What if a woman decided to make eggs from herself and sperm from herself, and then transfer them to her own uterus?
'I don't think many people would do that, but it's a big world.'

Will designer babies end the need for sex? Humans could reproduce using skin samples within 20 years, claims geneticist
Eggs will be grown from skin cells instead of needing invasive procedures
Parents will be able to select disease free embryos with traits they want
It could lead to the eradication of genetic diseases, says Stanford expert
PUBLISHED: 07:09 EST, 28 March 2016 | UPDATED: 07:11 EST, 28 March 2016

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