Researchers here at Cambridge University have successfully created germ cells from the skin of adults. They predict that this technique could be used to allow same sex couples to have their own biological children in as little as two years’ time.
The research which has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, and involved scientists here in Cambridge and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, has shown that egg and sperm cells can successfully be produced from adult stem cells found in the skin.
This is the first time such a technique has been performed successfully using human cells, having previously been successful with mice.
The leader of this project, Azim Surani, has said that “we have succeeded in the first and most important step of this process, which is to show we can make these very early human stem cells in a dish. We have also discovered that one of the things that happens in these germ cells is that epigenetic mutations, the cell mistakes that occur with age, are wiped out.”
This news comes shortly after UK MPs voted in favour of allowing babies to be born with three biological parents, in order to prevent transmission of mitochondrial diseases from mother to baby. This is a well-tested procedure and involves only a minimal amount of DNA being transmitted from the third parent. Even this was met with some criticism, for example MP Fiona Bruce who commented that it “will be passed down generations, the implications of this simply cannot be predicted”.
It seems that whilst the scientific knowledge to create babies from two single sex parents may be in place within just a couple of years, it will be a struggle to convince politicians and the public that such a practice is safe and necessary.
Gabriella Jeakins (News Editor)