Here are four of the new reproductive treatments that scientists believe could be years away from the clinic.
1. Lab-grown eggs and sperm
Scientists are making significant progress in the ability to grow eggs and sperm in the lab. The ultimate goal is to take adult skin cells, turn them into “induced pluripotent stem cells” which have the ability to transform into other cell types, and then, using a cocktail of chemicals, to coax these cells along the developmental pathway to become eggs or sperm.
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2. Human genome editing
Genome editing is a method of making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism. Gene therapy, where new genes are added or faulty genes are turned off in specific cells, is already used in medicine to treat genetic diseases.
Modifying the DNA of an embryo goes one step further as the genetic changes would occur in every cell of the body, meaning the changes would be passed on to subsequent generations.
3. IVF for threesome baby
The last major amendment to UK fertility law came in 2015 when MPs voted for an amendment allowing a technique called mitochondrial transfer, designed to eliminate certain incurable genetic diseases. The technique involves swapping the egg’s mitochondrial DNA (a tiny fraction of the total DNA, which is found outside the egg’s nucleus) with that of a healthy donor.
4. Synthetic embryos
UK fertility laws regulate the use of embryos in research and impose a 14-day limit on how long embryos can grow in the laboratory. However, the HFEA has no jurisdiction over so-called synthetic embryos.
This month, two teams of scientists report creating these embryo-like structures, with a beating heart and primitive brain, from mouse cells.
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