Researchers have discovered that it may be possible to make a baby from two adults of the same sex within the next two years.
Scientists at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom have shown for the first time how it is possible to make human egg and sperm cells with the skin from same sex adults.
First reported in The Sunday Times, the prospect opens the possibility of “manufactured” babies and led to the researchers suggesting that the development raises many ethical issues.
The breakthrough would also help people that have become infertile through disease to have biological babies.
The breakthrough was funded by the Wellcome Trust in association with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.
The scientists used stem cell lines from embryos as well as from the skin of five different adults. Researchers have previously created live baby mice using engineered eggs and sperm, but until now have struggled to create a human version of these “primordial germ” or stem cells.
The stem cells can be turned into any tissue in the body. As well as producing sperm and eggs, they will ultimately provide a “repair kit” for any organ.
“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,” said Azim Surani, professor of physiology and reproduction at Cambridge, who heads the project.
Jacob Hanna, the specialist leading the project’s Israeli arm, said it may be possible to use the technique to create a baby in just two years.
“It has already caused interest from gay groups because of the possibility of making egg and sperm cells from parents of the same sex,” he said.
“I am not in favour of creating engineered humans and the social and ethical implications . . . need to be thought through, but I am very confident it will work and will be very relevant to anyone who has lost their fertility through disease.”