Now, scientists are exploring another reproduction option for couples who are having trouble conceiving, but it’s not what you might think. By using principles rooted in biochemistry, cloning, and the IVF process, scientists say two men could conceive a child.
Our earliest lessons of reproduction have taught us that you need one egg from a woman and one sperm from a man to conceive a child. This concept is still true. However, Calum MacKellar, a lecturer in bioethics and biochemistry at Edinburgh University in Scotland said that, “borrowing from techniques used to clone Dolly the sheep, male couples could someday conceive their own children.”
The process is similar to any artificial insemination, just with a few important tweaks. First, scientists would take the genetic material inside the woman’s egg and replace it with the DNA from a man. Next, a healthy male sperm would fertilize the egg containing the male DNA. Then, similar to a typical IVF treatment, the fertilized egg would be transferred to a surrogate woman to carry the baby to term.
MacKellar admits the concept will take at least “a few years” before it’s possible, but he added that scientists have tried the technique on mice, and found some promising results. However, the process is not without its fair share of criticism.
When Dolly the Sheep was cloned, they transferred the nucleus of a somatic cell into a developing egg cell to produce a viable embryo. If this new process follows a similar technique, critics say the success rate is very low. Dolly’s creators made 227 attempts to fuse the nucleus and only one embryo resulted in a healthy lamb.
Critics also point out problems that follow, even if an embryo is successfully created. Reproduction is more difficult than many may think, and even healthy couples with normal reproductive system only have a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month.
Fertility experts admit that IVF isn’t a foolproof process and the embryo could be lost when transferred to the surrogate. The age of the surrogate matters as well. Women see a sharp decline in fertility after the age of 30, which could affect her ability to carry the child. Aside from the issues of actually developing an embryo, many scientists are weary of long-term repercussions.
The study is still in its infancy and will take years to fully develop. As for now, the idea could help gay couples conceive a child that is biologically theirs. There are many ways to make a family. This is just another option for couples who so desperately want a baby.