Disturbing science: Human eggs may soon be produced in labs

science, embryos

Science has given us amazing breakthroughs in medicine — but also some disturbing ones, as a new development has proven. The story says “it’s the first step toward being able to mass produce human eggs using other people’s body tissues or blood.” But the ability to create life in unnatural ways has serious implications.

In Japan, scientists have created human cells in the lab. A story last week in Motherboard reported:

Scientists in Japan have used human blood to successfully create immature human egg cells in a lab for the first time, according to new research published Thursday in Science. The work is a major breakthrough in stem cell research and may lead the way to babies that can be created in a lab using the body tissues or blood of their relatives.

READ: Chilling: Scientist says mass-produced, pre-screened embryos are the future

The story  continues, explaining:

To produce immature human eggs, Saitou and his colleagues used human blood cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells, which are notable for their ability to become any type of cell. These cells were then injected into tiny, artificial ovaries that were grown in the lab using embryonic cells derived from mice.

The eggs produced by Saitou and his colleagues are far too immature to be fertilized, much less grow into a human child. Still, they open the door for babies made from the genetic material of relatives, dead or alive. They could also provide a way for infertile people or same-sex partners to produce a child made from their own DNA.

But major breakthroughs come with costs, should the science advance to create fully developed human life. A story for NPR explains the dangers and ethical dilemmas such technology brings into play:

But the prospect of being able to mass-produce human eggs in labs raises a host of societal and ethical issues.

Theoretically, babies someday could be made from the blood, hair or skin cells of children, grandmothers, even deceased people. “So there are some very weird possibilities emerging,” says Ronald Green, a Dartmouth bioethicist.

People could even potentially make babies from cells stolen from unwitting celebrities, such as skin cells left behind on a soda can or follicles from hair clipped at a salon.

“A woman might want to have George Clooney’s baby,” Green says. “And his hairdresser could start selling his hair follicles online. So we suddenly could see many, many progeny of George Clooney without his consent.”

READ: “IVF embryo jewelry: The ultimate commodification of children” is locked IVF embryo jewelry: The ultimate commodification of children

Further, though this research purports to promote life, it may actually result in full-blown eugenics if it ever becomes common.

Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford, explained to NPR that this could result in a routine DNA scan of embryos before a woman tries to have a baby. Greely says:

Doing genetic testing basically on a large chunk of every generation of babies before they even become fetuses — while they’re still embryos — and having parents and potentially governments pick and chose which embryos go on to become babies — that has lots of implications.

The Motherboard story points out that, “[s]tem cell research in the US and many other countries has stalled out due to ethical concerns in recent decades”, and problems of the type alluded to by Green will have to be addressed as developments in science like this become more sophisticated. But it’s not a stretch of anyone’s imagination to fathom how — in our current culture that fights for abortion on demand, without apology, that defends late term abortions because of a potential birth defect being discovered, and that has a whole industry devoted to mail order abortion pills — only the most “desirable” children would be chosen to be birthed… almost like a dystopian novel, except this time, the science is disturbingly real.

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