The Grapevine

Male Pregnancy Could Be Possible With New Medical Procedure

Infertile people as well as same sex couples may soon be able to have their own biological babies. Scientists have been exploring a new procedure that uses a person’s skin to make a baby. 

Using ordinary skin cells, scientists were able to create artificial sperm and eggs in the laboratory. The process, tested in animal subjects, appeared effective in growing a baby with genes from parents that donated skin cells. 

The induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were first reported effective to be converted into sperm in a 2011 study. Researchers used the skin cells to create artificial mouse sperm, which was able to fertilize mouse eggs and produce healthy mouse pups, The Guardian reported.

Experts said such process could enable couples of same sexes to have babies that were genetically related to both parents. For male couples, the process would still require a surrogate mother to bear their baby. 

There could also be what others call as “uniparent.” Experts predict that being able to use one’s own skin to produce sperm or eggs may also allow a single person to conceive a child from eggs and sperm both made from his or her cells. 

However, such process is expected to be more challenging than using skin cells from two persons. 

But Henry Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford University in California, said converting skin to produce babies may soon become the default method of human reproduction.

“I expect that, some time in the next 20 to 40 years… sex [for reproduction] will largely disappear,” he wrote in his 2016 book “The End of Sex.”

The rise of the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 is also increasing the possibility of achieving the reproduction method. Crispr has already been used on human embryos for research purposes in the lab. But the scientific community remains skeptical about the safety of the tool.

Kirtly Jones, from Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Utah Healthcare, said using skin cells to reproduce could significantly help those who lost eggs or sperm due to menopause in women, chemotherapy and other factors. 

“If a woman and her female partner wanted to make a baby with DNA from both of them, they could use this technology,” Jones said in a 2017 interview. People will “have their source of eggs and sperm with their own DNA.” 

However, the expert noted further tests are required to confirm the safety and effectiveness of using skin cells to make human embryos.