For those who think that creating a non-twin copy of an organism—cloning—has sparked controversy, consider the flap that will arise as humans develop the technology to create egg and sperm cells from skin cells. “Oh,” you say, “They’ll never be able to do that.” Well, according to an editorial in the scientific journal Nature, in the last couple of years it has become relatively easy to create “pluripotent stem cell derived gametes.”
Earlier this month, the world had its first look at a pregnant man, a jarring reminder of how conventions in the way humans are created could shift. Just a week later, scientists, bioethicists, lawyers and journal editors convened in Hinxton, UK, to ponder how long it will be until sperm and eggs can be made entirely in a Petri dish from, say, skin cells induced to pluripotency. They asked questions such as how will these advances transform reproductive research and medicine? How might they change society? Is the bioethics community prepared?
Oh, golly, this is going to be fun to watch! Of course, I mean that it’ll be fun to watch the clusters of hyperbolic assertions moving like swarms of gnats through the public discussion, not the creation of the cells (though that might be interesting, too). Any guess on how religious groups will react to this? Atheists?
Link to the editorial in Nature.
While I’m at it here, do you think that the shamans of old had a big debate about the appropriateness of tribesfolx arranging the mating the largest, strongest horses?