London-Based Biologist Advocates Reproduction Without Sex, Don’t Throw Out Your Marvin Gaye CDs Just Yet
Our fertility declines in our thirties, greatly so, but are we ready for a world like the one London-based biologist and science writer Aarathi Prasad suggests, where most of our babies are conceived in laboratories and born via in vitro fertilization? It’s an interesting premise, that in the years to come women will no longer have to worry about their biological clocks and can focus on their careers during their prime working years before starting on a family, but part of me has this romanticized version of conception that involves old school R&B recordings and some nice wine beforehand. From CNN.com:
“in the next 20 years, more young people will freeze their eggs and [sperm] in their 20s, and bank them for later use. They will do away with the need for contraception by being sterilised, and withdraw their eggs and sperm from the bank when they are ready to have a child via IVF.”
That is certainly one option as we develop greater capabilities to store eggs more reliably and safely so that they are not damaged by the freezing/thawing process meant to preserve them. But in the next 20 years, there could be other developments on their way to the clinic. For example — also to avert damage — freezing strips of ovarian tissue instead of eggs, or tapping into recently identified reserves of ovarian stem cells that could be turned into a fresh supply of eggs for a woman, at any age; or even creating to order eggs (or sperm) from skin or bone marrow stem cells of men and women.
Early experiments with mice have shown that both sperm and eggs can be generated from the stem cells of males, and eggs from that of females, and that they can be fertilized to produce viable young.
The arguments Prasad present in her article make a lot of sense to me, an egalitarian society for our daughters, giving same-sex couples the chance of having their own genetic children, not forcing women to have to decide between career and family during the prime working years of her life, but part of it all sounds a bit clinical and cold to me. The idea that people could all choose sterilization and then have the ability to create a baby in a laboratory at a later date. It’s a concept that won’t ever directly affect me, considering my baby making days are over, but I guess a future with so much choice is something I find interesting for my daughter. I just hope she keeps the hand-me down Marvin Gaye and Barry White CDs for non-reproductive romance time.