8 Oct, 12 | by Iain Brassington
The news that Japanese researchers have successfully induced skin cells to behave like viable eggs, which have then been fertilised to create a new generation of mice, may well come to be seen as a scientific milestone. And if it’s not that, it’s definitely very, very cool. (The original paper is here.)
Though the research does not necessarily translate into humans, it appears to demonstrate that the genetic material found in every cell in the body can be put to use in the creation of offspring. In principle, this offers infertile women the opportunity to have children that are genetically related, even if they do not have viable eggs of their own: cells from another part of the body could be used and “reprogrammed” to behave as eggs would. (Putting the procedure to use in humans would be illegal under current UK law, since the synthesised eggs would not be what the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act calls “permitted”. But the law is, after all, just the law.)
There will probably be concerns raised; but they aren’t obviously any more serious in relation to this technology than they would be in relation to others.
The most obvious concern – and, prima facie, the most powerful – would be about the safety of the procedure were it to be used in humans. more…