Now Same Sex Couples Can Have Babies

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A gay couple
IN PHOTO: A gay couple. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Stem cells from the skin of two adults of the same sex can be used to make human egg and sperm cells, new research has shown. Azim Surani, professor of physiology and reproduction at Cambridge University and head of this project, has along with his colleagues has made these very early human stem cells in a dish.

Scientists at Cambridge University collaborated with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science. They 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 human versions of these stem cells.

The team has compared the engineered germ cells with natural human stem cells taken from aborted foetuses to check that the artificially created version of the cells had identical characteristics. Stem cell lines from embryos as well as from the skin of five different adults were used. Ten different donor sources have been used so far and new germ-cell lines have been created from all of them. A gene called SOX17, which was previously considered to be unimportant in mice, has turned out to be critical in the process of reprogramming human cells. One of the things that happens in these germ cells is that epigenetic mutations, cell mistakes that occur with age, are wiped out.

It may be possible to create a baby using this technique within two years. There has already been a lot of interest from gay groups because of the possibility of making egg and sperm cells from parents of the same sex. The details of the technique were published in the journal Cell. Surani was also involved in the research that led to the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby in 1978.

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