Artificial gametes: perspectives of geneticists, ethicists and representatives of potential users
Several threads of research towards developing artificial gametes are ongoing in a number of research labs worldwide. The development of a technology that could generate gametes in vitro has significant potential for human reproduction, and raises a lot of interest, as evidenced by the frequent and extensive media coverage of research in this area. We have asked researchers involved in work with artificial gametes, ethicists, and representatives of potential user groups, how they envisioned the use of artificial gametes in human reproduction. In the course of three focus groups, the participants commented on the various aspects involved. The two recurring themes were the strength of the claim of becoming a parent genetically, and the importance of responsible communication of science. The participants concurred that (a) the desire or need to have genetic offspring of one’s own does not warrant the investment of research resources into these technologies, and that (b) given the minefield in terms of moral controversy and sensitivity that characterises the issues involved, how information is communicated and handled is of great importance.
KeywordsArtificial gametes Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) Genetic relatedness Infertility ICSI Communication of research
We are very grateful to all focus group participants for their participation. The work reported in this paper has been made possible by the project “Artificial gametes: science and ethics”, funded by the Centre for Society and the Life Sciences (CSG), Nijmegen, and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), The Hague.
- Cyranoski, D. 2013. Stem cells: Egg engineers. Nature. Google Scholar
- Highfield, R. 2008. Sperm cells created from female embryo. The Telegraph. Google Scholar
- Hinxton Group. 2008. Consensus statement: Science, ethics and policy challenges of pluripotent stem cell-derived gametes. http://www.hinxtongroup.org/au_pscdg_cs.html. Accessed September 2013.
- Kerkis, I., C.M. Mendes, S.A.S. da Fonseca, N.F. Lizier, R.C. Serafim, and A. Kerkis. 2011. Actual achievements on germ cells and gametes derived from pluripotent stem cells. In Embryonic stem cells—recent advances in pluripotent stem cell-based regenerative medicine, ed. C. Atwood, 311–336. Rijeka: InTech.Google Scholar
- Nuffield Council on Bioethics. 2012. Novel techniques for the prevention of mitochondrial DNA disorders. London: Nuffield Council. http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/sites/default/files/Novel_techniques_for_the_prevention_of_mitochondrial_DNA_disorders_compressed.pdf. Accessed September 2013.
- Nayernia, K., J. Nolte, H.W. Michelmann, J.H. Lee, K. Rathsack, N. Drusenheimer, A. Dev, G. Wulf, I.E. Ehrmann, D.J. Elliott, V. Okpanyi, U. Xechner, T. Haaf, A. Minhardt, and W. Engel. 2006. In vitro-differentiated embryonic stem cells give rise to make gametes that can generate offspring mice. Developmental Cell 11: 125–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar