Medical breakthrough for LGBT partners as biological parents
With legal marriage now a reality for the LGBT community, the next dream for LGBT partners may soon come true: to be biological parents of their own children.
LGBT partners who want to have their own children have addressed this perennial problem with a couple of solutions. One is to adopt, while the other is to get someone to act as surrogate or to contact a sperm bank.
But as an article in MIC states, the idea of being biologically-related to one baby seemed to be an impossibility. Until now.
LGBT partners as biological parents
The new medical process, in vitro gametogenesis or IVG, uses stem cells to create “reproductively viable gametes.” This means scientists use eggs and sperm that are capable of creating offspring.
According to a recent article in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, IVG has only been tested in mice. But if this proves successful also in humans, it “would allow same-sex couples to have children who are biologically related to both of them.”
“By allowing each member of the couple to contribute genetic material, IVG would allow these couples to reproduce in a manner similar to fertile straight couples,” the article’s author, Sonia M. Suter, wrote.
“In terms of equality, therefore, IVG offers significant advantages over other [assisted reproductive technologies],” Suter added.
IVG isn’t limited to LGBT parents. It would also help those who want to be parents, from single people who don’t want to get gametes from unknown donors, to heterosexual couples troubled with infertility and postmenopausal women who still want to have children.
IVG is based on a decade’s work by scientists to convert embryonic stem cells from mice into eggs. The New Scientist reported at that time, “most experts see no reason why the same should not work in humans.”
How IVG works for LGBT partners
For two female-bodied people who want to have a child through IVG, here’s how it works: doctors would extract cells from one person and usee these to form gametes of the opposite sex. In this case, they would make sperm.
Then they would combine this sperm with the “naturally” derived gamete (or an egg) from the other partner to form an embryo.
“For lesbian couples, one or the other would be able to have the embryo implanted in her uterus so she could carry the pregnancy to term, avoiding entirely the need to rely on individuals outside the relationship to assist in their reproduction,” Suter wrote.
Suter added that for male-bodied people, they would still need to find a surrogate to carry their baby to term “unless artificial wombs become a viable option.”
Potential problems for LGBT partners
Obviously, other experts foresee possible issues for this procedure, ranging from complications to safety.
“It would be remarkable, amazing, very exciting. It’s just not happening tomorrow,” warned Piraye Yurttas Beim, who founded and is the CEO of Celmatix (a medical company focused on treating infertility).
“Creating a great egg is not just about the egg,” Beim said, citing the need for eggs to grow inside complicated structures called follicles. She added that follicles are comprised of “many different layers of different kinds of cells that support the growth of an egg.”
Meanwhile, safety of the IVG still needs to be considered. From testing on people, scientists also need to observe the resulting offspring for a number of years after its birth.
“You’d still have a lot of safety studies to do in animals before you get to people,” said Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor and founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Department of Population Health.
However, Caplan said that there shouldn’t be any ethical issues about it: “It’s certainly outside the box of thinking but I don’t find anything morally repellant about it.”
In other words, LGBT partners will still have to wait for their own biological children. But the science is there, such that the day will come soon when this will become possibility.