Acceptance aside, a fundamental fact that many gay couples face is that, to make a baby, you currently need sperm and an egg. That may not remain true for long. The Sunday Times reports that researchers at Cambridge University believe they’ve found a way to create biological offspring from two same-sex parents.
Head researcher Azim Surani claims to have “succeeded in the first and most important step of this process, which is to show we can make these very early human stem cells in a dish.” What this means is that researchers took skin cells from five adult donors to create germ cells (a cell that can reproduce sexually). They then compared those germ cells to stem cells from aborted fetuses and found that they were characteristically identical. Nevertheless, it’s still unclear whether those engineered sperm and eggs will interact as they do naturally and form an embryo.
Surani and his team’s research is unquestionably good-natured. Same-sex couples have made great strides legally over the past few years and progress is progress. The reality, though, is that, despite a promise for the project’s success within two years, it seems unlikely to happen on that sort of timeframe. There will almost certainly be legislative hurdles to this sort of thing and, yes, the religious right isn’t going to like it very much.
In the short term, Surani’s research may apply more to tissue regeneration. Stem cells are known to repair organs, and engineering them from skin cells eliminates moral hurdles. Maybe one day scientists will figure out alternative methods for engineering children, but stem cells and Congress have a sordid history.