Creating human germ cells for unmet reproductive needs
Tetsuya Ishii, Renee A. Reijo Pera
Current assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, depends on the premise that both partners produce fertile eggs or sperm (gametes). As yet, there is no ART treatment for individuals with few or no gametes, unless donor gametes are used. Ongoing research suggests that autologous female or male germ cells may be regenerated from somatic cells by controlling cell fate; if so, there is a possibility that ART might aid infertile couples and even same-sex couples in the future. Before such ART treatments using induced germ cells can be considered in the clinical context, however, a great many questions concerning the safety and efficacy of such procedures must be answered. Moreover, profound ethical and social concerns will arise if such induced germ cells are needlessly generated, cryopreserved and used for reproductive purposes in clinics without a definition of their appropriate roles in ART. As a response to the increasing feasibility of inducing germ cells from human pluripotent stem cells, we discuss below the current technical challenges to creating induced human germ cells and explore some of the ethical, legal and social issues associated with their use in clinical practice.
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