Women may soon be able to have babies without men, fertility experts said yesterday. Scientists have used a cocktail of chemicals to trick a mouse egg into forming an embryo without sperm. They say similar ‘artificial sperm’ could be used to fertilise human eggs.
In sexual reproduction, a woman’s eggs provide only half the number of chromosomes needed to form an embryo. The other half is provided by the man’s sperm. The new method makes an egg duplicate its own chromosomes – resulting in a female embryo genetically identical to its mother.
Known as parthenogenesis – literally, virgin birth – experts believe the process could be used to help women whose partners are infertile or who want to have a baby without a sperm donor.
Scientists at the US Society of Reproductive Medicine in Florida created several mouse embryos which were transferred to mouse ‘foster’ mothers. They grew successfully before being destroyed after 13 days. Dr. Michael Soules, the society’s president, said: ‘If this works with human eggs, there could be tremendous opportunities for clinical applications. I think everyone is going to find this very exciting.’
But the breakthrough is controversial as it is similar to human cloning, which is currently banned in Britain. Medical ethics campaigners last night described the research as ‘very disturbing’. Paul Tully, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said : ‘This could mean that, theoretically, it would be possible to eradicate men.’
A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which grants licences for reproductive research, said: ‘ If this was a sort of cloning there would be serious misgivings.’
I came across this article while trying to reasearch something else. I was trying to find an article about Alexis Stewart, Martha Stewart’s daughter, and the birth of her first child. The reason I wanted to locate it is because of something I read in People magazine. My friend gave me a copy of the magazine, but I must have thrown it away.
As I read about Alexis Stewart’s new baby, I could not get something she said out of my mind. I wish I could quote her exactly, but won’t be able to. Alexis’s daughter, Jude, was born via surrogate after a long attempt to have a baby on her own. When the article author asked Alexis about the fact the child will not have a father, she mentioned it was not necessary. She said even if her child had a father, it could end up to be a terrible one like her dad.
The article above talks about how current research can create an embryo, without the use of sperm, using a cocktail of chemicals. The testing is currently being done on mice, but the implications are it will be soon be able to assist humans. Women are already able to have children alone with just a sperm donor, but the fact a male representative would be completely absent is something new.
Without getting into the ethical questions of creating life without any sperm or the possible genetic problems this could create, I think what bothers me most is the absence of a father in child’s life. I realize having a sperm donor for a child does not mean the child has a father, but the child still knows somewhere out in the world a man contributed to their creation.
Maybe I am old fashioned in thinking, but I believe having a father is a really good thing for a child. To me, fathers are a very important part of a child’s life. If ever you ask a child who does not have a father, they will most likely tell you they wish they did. This does not mean that a single woman or two women cannot successfully raise a wonderful child. What it may mean is that children, if given a choice, want to have both male and female people contributing to their life.
My boys love their father. I am very fortunate that my husband has made fatherhood a top priority. Not all men are this way. My relationship with my father is not close and yet I am grateful to have him. To eliminate a man, from assisting to create a child’s life completely, is a very hard concept for me to grasp.
Because my parents were divorced, I did not have the opportunity to have my dad live with me for most of my childhood. I did not grow up seeing the day-to-day interactions of what a father’s role is in the family. Raising my own children, with my husband, has given me that chance. I can only say, it has been wonderful. Watching the daily interactions between the boys and their dad, has made realize how much an influence a father can have on a child. A positive influence.
So this Father’s day I salute all the great fathers in the world, especially my husband. I know first hand what a difference having a fabulous father can have in a child’s life. As for the newest technology for creating life without male sperm, I think we should shelve the idea for a while. So many children already do not have the joy of a father in their life, let’s concentrate on assisting them. If a wonderful father is not available to all children, let’s be sure an amazing male role model is.