A study is to be presented Monday, June 20 in Copenhagen by British scientists attempting to show the future that may be possible through stem-cell research. To the outrage of pro-life groups and evangelical Christians, the study will indicate how lab-created ova and sperm could be used to allow any couple, heterosexual or homosexual to produce children that contain the genetic identity of both partners.
Professor Henry Moore from the University of Sheffield Centre for Stem Cell Biology will give the presentation to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
Moore has found that taking six lines of stem cells donated by any two people having vitro fertilization treatment, would allow stem cells to be made into primordial germ cells and in ultimately into sperm and eggs.
Scientists have halted their work just short of actually creating eggs or sperm (gametes), but they will present the fact that there is a very strong chance that they could be produced in the future.
The scientists will also attempt to use the research to understand more clearly how ovaries and testes develop and how they can be affected by pollutants to the body. Moore reported, "Many scientists believe that environmental chemical pollutants that mimic the action of hormones might interfere with human development at this stage and cause congenital abnormalities, infertility and possibly cancer, in particular testicular cancer."
Although naturally infertile couples have been touted as being able to benefit from the treatment, fears have been raised from the research that a slippery slope in ethics may result as homosexuals may also wish to take advantage of this.
The new technology would allow in theory for DNA to be taken from a man and traded with the DNA in an egg. Once this is fertilized by a partner and carried in a surrogate mother, the resulting embryo could potentially be a genetic combination of the two men creating a child from two men.
A researcher in medical ethics at Imperial College, London summed up the alarming slide in values that could result from a child even being able to be created from just one person with no partner at all, removing the second parent. Anna Smajdor told the Guardian newspaper that in the future, "this technology would offer an obvious solution to infertile couples".
"Gay couples could have children genetically related to both. Single men could even produce a child using their own sperm and an engineered egg, opening the way to a new form of cloning. Women's fertility would no longer need to be curtailed at the menopause. These possibilities raise new questions about how we define parenthood and about how we decide who has access to these new technologies."
The news comes just a month after the success of therapeutic cloning of human embryos in the UK and South Korea hit the headlines in May. However, the developments even then raised a deep worry among pro-lifers, who say that cloning could potentially become a global crisis leading to the slippery slope over bioethics.
In response to the South Korean cloning team who claimed to have produced about a dozen new embryonic stem cell lines from cloned human embryos, the UKs leading pro-life group, LIFE warned that this news "takes us a step closer to full reproductive cloning".
"This news from South Korea makes reproductive cloning a clear and present global danger. If, as they claim, these South Korean scientists can reliably produce cloned embryos healthy enough to survive to the blastocyst stage for cell harvesting, we can assume that they can reliably produce embryos healthy enough to try implanting them in women. This Frankenstein science should be banned in every civilized country."
LIFE deplored the British scientists upon the announcement last month that the first cloned human embryos were "born" in the Centre for Life in Newcastle. It even described it as a "shame" for Britain.
The press release read, "Cloning has been banned by many civilized countries such as the USA, Germany and Italy and earlier this year the United Nations approved a declaration urging all member states to outlaw all forms of cloning. We have crossed a moral Rubicon. We are witnessing a new and lamentable form of manipulation and trivialization of human life."
The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) in the UK echoed the hidden danger as well, "Therapeutic cloning will also lead inevitably to reproductive cloning. Once cloned embryos exist, theoretically all that is needed to produce human clones would be to implant them in a womb - a technique that is simple to perform and impossible to police."