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Is Egg-free Fertilisation an Option? Find Out

Is Egg-free Fertilisation an Option? Find Out

05:19 27th March 2017 | Fertilisation

Biological Programming University Of Bath Genetic Code Embryo Ethical Concerns

The future could be a place where human babies are created without female eggs. Here is what you need to know about leading developments in science and technology.

In the past, as far as biological teaching was concerned, a female egg and a male sperm were required to create life. However, in September 2016 it was announced that scientists in the United Kingdom discovered a procedure to possibly create offspring without using an egg. A technique developed by researchers at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom could allow sperm to be fused with (any) other human cells in the body, which would make it possible for human babies to be created without eggs.

This was not even considered earlier as, supposedly, a viable embryo needed the unique genetic connection of an egg and a sperm to induce development. After all, changes (biological programming) made to the sperm by the egg is responsible for ensuring that only half of the sperm’s genetic code is carried over, resulting in a 50-50 DNA split from parents.

Since observing mammalian eggs in 1827 and witnessing fertilisation in the late 1870s, early embryologists believed that a live mammalian birth could only be the result of an egg cell being fertilised with a sperm cell.

The Technique

Initially, researchers at the University of Bath “tricked” eggs from mice into the first stages of fertilisation with chemicals. Usually this type of embryo, not carrying the full genetic programming to create a baby, would die in a few days. However, when the researchers injected mice sperm into these non-viable embryos, they turned into normal, working mice embryos. The resulting mice survived, were considered healthy and eventually produced offspring of their own.

Although an egg was required in this case, Dr Tony Perry, who is the project’s lead scientist, believes that any cell in the human body could be used to develop a viable embryo.

“This is (the) first time that full-term development has been achieved by injecting sperm into embryos,” Dr Tony Perry said.

This scientific breakthrough essentially means that the sperm did not require reprogramming from the egg for embryonic development to occur.

Dr Perry and his team are planning to take the next step: attempting to produce live offspring from ordinary non-egg cells, for example skin cells.

What Could Be the Benefits?

In theory, women who have lost eggs as a result of cancer treatment could have their fertility restored. Another incredible possibility is the fact that endangered animals could also be bred more effectively, without having to rely on invasive surgery to retrieve eggs.

Are there Ethical Concerns Yet?

According to the team at Bath, the prospect of creating a human without a female egg (and possibly treating infertility) is still a long way off as medical and ethical approval from the relevant authorities would have to be in place first.

How do you feel about the possible creation of human babies without a female egg?

Are the benefits appealing or do you find this new technique unethical?

Get in touch to discuss your thoughts or concerns.


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