Everyone knows that the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.
They release energy from food and keep cells functioning, but that’s about all people remember when it comes to biology, especially at the cellular level. Hopefully, though, you can remember the process called cell division or cell reproduction, where cells split up and reproduce themselves as a means of replacing old and damaged cells.
For instance, if you cut your arm, your cells will split and reproduce new cells to cover that cut and repair it. Your cells are constantly splitting to generate fresh new cells that you keep you functioning. The splitting of cells occurs in two ways, mitosis (regular cell division) and meiosis which is specifically geared towards creating sex cells.
But no matter what type of cell reproduction/division you have, cells can generally only produce copies of themselves, i.e. a skin cell can only divide into two new skin cells, or so we thought.
In a study by Katsuhiko Hayashi from Kyushu University, he reveals how he and his team successfully created somatic cells from the skin cells of mice. They used pluripotent stem cells, which are known for their special ability to become specialized cells, and with a little help from ovarian tissues to finish developing, these cells were fertilized, placed in a mice uterus and were successfully born.
This study was groundbreaking because it gave hope for an end to fertility issues and it also seemed promising for LGBTQ+ couples hoping to have children of their own.
What a utopian world it would be for nontraditional couples to be able to produce children, as well as women who felt they never could reproduce having the opportunity to create a child from their very own skin. While this technique has not been tried on humans yet, it brought hope for a better future and the eradication of infertility in the human race.
But it also brought a ton of doubts and disastrous scenarios.
First, this technique was deemed the way for LGBTQ+ couples to have their own children, but one crucial factor has been ignored. Once the somatic cells are created they still must be fertilized to form into an actual baby. Meaning that this technique doesn’t work for lesbian couples because they still must use the sperm of a man to have their baby.
So their child must either carry the DNA of 3 people or only one mother would be represented.
The overlooking of this fact alludes to how we often forget women have separate issues from men, but are frequently lumped into to discoveries that will only benefit men.
Secondly, questions have been raised about the regulations of this process.
If lesbian couples would require insemination from a man, essentially creating three biological parents, what would then be the limit of parenthood? Could other groups mix together 4, 5, or even 6 people’s DNA to create a baby and would this be unethical?
Scientists were also worried about the possibilities of illegal skin cell collection to create children.
Deeming it the “Brad Pitt scenario” according to the New York Times, could someone just steal Brad Pitt’s skin cells from his bathtub and then potentially create a baby where he is a genetic parent? What would be the legal ramifications of this?
This technology definitely raises a lot of ethical questions but could be a real option for parents who have no other option or the alternative option is often painful and expensive. Science is always creating new techniques that could make life better for us all, but it’s important to always look at the implications and what they say about our society.
Once again this phenomenon is currently only beneficial to men and women must once again take a back seat, but I guess the potential of having Brad Pitt’s kid makes it worth it, right?