Stopping The Biological Clock: Research On Mice May Lead To New Fertility Treatment For Women
Professor Hank Greely spoke with the Washington Post about a new treatment that could help millions of women who don’t have working eggs of their own.
Scientists have turned mouse skin cells into eggs that produced baby mice — a technique that, if successfully applied to humans, could someday allow women to stop worrying about the ticking of their biological clocks and perhaps even help couples create “designer babies.”
For technical as well as ethical reasons, nobody expects doctors will be making eggs from women’s skin cells any time soon. But some see possibilities and questions about its use.
“It could mean the reproductive clock doesn’t tick for women anymore,” said Hank Greely, a Stanford University law professor who studies the implications of biomedical technologies.
Greely, the Stanford law professor, speculated that in 20 to 40 years, the technique might make couples more likely to go through test-tube fertilization just so they could choose characteristics of their babies. That is because donating skin cells to make eggs is a lot easier than going through the medical and surgical procedure of having one’s own eggs harvested, which is what some women do now.
In the future, Greely said, couples could create eggs and then have the resulting embryos analyzed genetically. Then they could choose which embryos they wish to have implanted on the basis of that analysis, which by that date might be able to indicate not only disease risk but also a variety of normal traits such as eye color and or a propensity for certain talents, he said.