Secular and Christian ethicists have expressed alarm at new attempts by some scientists to create artificial eggs and sperm by re-programming other cells in the body.
Several concerns were raised at a meeting held on 12 February by the Progress Educational Trust at the Centre for Life in Newcastle, entitled ‘Artificial Gametes: The What, Why and How of Creating Sperm and Eggs in the Laboratory’.
Professor Karim Nayernia at the University of Newcastle is seeking to pursue research into the artificial creation of ‘female sperm’ from stem cells taken from a woman’s bone marrow.
At the meeting Professor John Burn, head of the Institute of Human Genetics at the Centre for Life, cautioned that research so far has produced significant abnormalities and insisted safety is a prime concern.
Anna Smajdor, an ethicist at the University of East Anglia, recently warned in a Daily Telegraph report: “What has been termed ‘reprogrammable biology’ gives us the capacity to make cells act in new ways, blurring what we mean by an egg or sperm, or even embryo.”
Scientists claim that the procedure could one day allow the creation of biological offspring for infertile and same-sex couples.
Commenting on the issue, Mike Judge, of The Christian Institute, recently told the Daily Mail: “Children need male and female role models in their lives.
“Yes, there are children raised by single parents through all sorts of circumstances, but when you are talking about deliberately creating children in that way, that is morally wrong.”