In vitro fertilization has transformed reproductive medicine and sparked a number of therapeutic and diagnostic breakthroughs.
Now a new, still experimental, technique known as in vitro gametogenesis (IVG) is poised to usher in the next era in reproductive and regenerative medicine. The approach—thus far successful only in mice—allows scientists to create embryos in a lab by reprogramming any type of adult cell to become a sperm or egg cell.
In a newly published commentary, a trio of scholars argue that while IVG carries a promise to unravel the fundamental mechanisms of devastating genetic forms of infertility and to pave the way to a range of new therapies, the technique also raises a number of vexing legal and ethical questions that society should address before IVG becomes ready for prime-time clinical use in human patients.
The article, published Jan. 11 in Science Translational Medicine, is authored by I. Glenn Cohen, professor at Harvard Law School, George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, and Eli Y. Adashi, professor of medical science and former dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown University.
IVG holds enormous potential not only as a treatment for infertility, but also for a constellation of currently untreatable diseases, the authors write. Additionally, they note, the technique may provide an inexhaustible supply of lab-made embryonic stem cells for research and therapeutic use as a tantalizing alternative to scarce human embryonic stem cells, which are currently in limited supply due to ethical considerations and regulatory restrictions.
Yet, the authors say, such promises come with some worrisome scientific, legal and ethical challenges, such as the need for rigorous scientific protocols to ensure that any reproductive cells created through IVG are free of genetic aberrations, the threat of improper commercialization of IVG for large-scale embryonic generation and the use of preimplantation genetic screening to create “designer” offspring.
Continue reading the full article on Harvard Medical School, including a list of both the promise and cautions of IVG...
Image via Pixabay
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always
been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such
material available in our efforts to advance understanding of
biotechnology and public policy issues. We believe this constitutes a
'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section
107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section
107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for research and educational purposes. For more information
go to: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107. If you wish to use
copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go
beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.