Scientists Have Turned Blood Cells Into Human Egg Cells For The First Time Ever

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In 1924, an eccentric biological scientist called JBS Haldane predicted that over 70 percent of babies would be born from an artificial womb by 2074. He even came up with a name for the process: ectogenesis.

Well, it might sound a little Brave New World but thanks to research from a team of scientists at Kyoto University, Japan, that vision is one step closer to becoming a reality. Biologist Mitinori Saitou and co-workers published a paper in Science explaining how exactly they were able to create immature human egg cells from human blood in what is thought to be a world first. 

To do so, the team extracted cells from human blood and turned them into pluripotent stem cells, which have the invaluable ability to transform into any type of human cell. These were then inserted into miniature "artificial" ovaries made in the lab using mouse embryonic cells.  

This is an essential first step to lab-made babies but there is still a long way to go, not to mention many ethical questions to consider. 

For example, while it offers exciting opportunities for couples facing infertility problems as well as same-sex partners and trans women (all of whom may struggle to conceive in the traditional way), it also raises the question of how easy it could be to essentially steal someone's DNA and make a baby without their knowledge or consent.

"There are some very weird possibilities emerging," Dartmouth bioethicist Robert Green told NPR, referring to the idea that you could make babies from the cells of children, grandmothers, and even the dead. 

"A woman might want to have George Clooney's baby," he added. "And his hairdresser could start selling his hair follicles online. So we suddenly could see many, many progeny of George Clooney without his consent."

This is not something that should have Clooney shaking in his boots just yet, however. Saitou's artificially produced eggs are far too immature to grow into a baby – or, indeed, be fertilized – and the technology is far from being consumer-ready. Next, the researchers hope to find a way to make eggs that are mature enough to be fertilized and look into ways of producing sperm in a similar fashion.

[H/T: NPR]

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