Can you imagine planning for a child without having to consider a partner – at all? So many people are single parents these days anyway, right? What if we were able to completely take another person out of the equation – and reproduce on our own? Aarathi Prasad, a writer with a Phd in mammalian cell cycle biology, imagines this scenario in her new book, Like a Virgin: How Science Is Redesigning The Rules Of Sex.
It’s not totally new to talk about reproduction without talking about sex. Surrogacy and in vitro fertilization- though not always supported by the masses - are pretty common procedures. People don’t really bat an eye when hearing about these paths to reproduction that were once considered cutting edge.
Prasad’s research, however, doesn’t just take sex out of the equation – it takes another partner out of the equation. From iol.com:
Here she describes the “ultimate solo parent” of the future. This woman can use her own stem cells and an artificial Y chromosome to produce healthy new eggs and sperm at any age, is capable of reproducing entirely alone by making one of her eggs behave like a pseudo-sperm that can be used to fertilise herself, and has no need to carry the embryo in her own body.
Instead it gestates in an artificial womb.
Don’t worry men, the research in her book would not solely benefit women who are sick of looking for the perfect mate. It’s not the basis of some feminist plot to rid the world of the necessity for sperm. Men could also use the technology to become single parents – just as their female counterparts.The same field of technology she is studying and outlining in her book would also allow gay parents to have children created from their DNA.
Along with the artificial womb, the other possible advance Prasad finds most exciting is the potential to create healthy, new young eggs from our stem cells.
There have been studies conducted on animals, she says, in which bone marrow from a female has generated eggs.
“You can also take bone marrow from men, to generate sperm, and you can generate eggs from men too,” she adds.
The child wouldn’t be a clone, she notes, because “every time you create an egg there’s a shuffling of the DNA, which is why siblings don’t tend to look the same”.
This technology has the possibility to silence the annoying “biological clock” forever. Also, men and women could potentially have an equal role in parenting from conception. In her book, Prasad calls it “the great biological and social equaliser.” She then adds that it is not “if” this technology will happen – but “when.”
That kind of gives me goosebumps.