A team of Japanese researchers is working on a method to grow babies in the lab as early as 2028, according to a study that could help treat infertility and other birth defects. Researchers at Kyushu University aim to mass-produce eggs and sperm in the laboratory from normal human cells. In the study published in the journal Nature, the team described their method of turning skin cells from male mice into pluripotent stem cells, which can potentially develop into different types of cells or tissues. They then grew these cells with a drug that converted male rodent stem cells into female cells, which produced viable egg cells. These eggs were then fertilized to produce newborn male mice.
“The study provides insight that may improve infertility caused by sex chromosome or autosomal disorders, and opens up the possibility of biparental reproduction,” wrote Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi, a stem cell biology expert, in the paper. Earlier, his team used a synthetic surrogacy method to produce mice from two male mice. In the new study, only seven out of 630 embryos developed into live rat pups. The researchers believe that the experiment could have potential effects on human reproduction. “It’s a very clever strategy,” Diana Laird, a stem cell and fertility specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the research, was quoted as saying by the New York Post.
“This is an important step in both stem cell and reproductive biology.” In fact, this process could theoretically be replicated in humans by means of pluripotent stem cells infecting embryos produced in the female womb. Dr. Hayashi estimates that it will take about half a decade to replicate egg-like cell production in humans, and 10-20 years of testing to ensure that this artificial reproduction method is safe for use in clinics. “Purely in terms of technology, it would be possible [in humans] Even in 10 years,” he was previously quoted as saying to the Guardian. “I don’t know if they will be available to reproduce,” he said. “It’s not just for the scientific program , rather (society).”