Motherless babies in the making

Dhaka,  Monday,   2016-09-18
Published : 18 Sep 2016, 19:36:53

Motherless babies in the making

Neil Ray
The possibility of making women irrelevant for reproduction of the humankind has been unveiled. A British team led by Dr Tony Perry, a molecular embryologist at the University of Bath, has in fact created three generations of mice by adopting a technique where the usual process of fertilisation of an egg cell by a sperm cell was not required. The process followed has encouraged the team to believe that any cell in human body can be fertilised by a sperm for reprogramming or copying cell division and growth. In the study, the team has been able to realistically indicate that embryos could be created from body or skin cells which carry all their chromosomes. 

In this case, though, an egg was tricked into fertilisation into an embryo using special chemicals. When several such embryos were injected with sperm, they grew into healthy mice which then went into produce their own offspring. What is crucial here is the replacement of an egg cell with any cell of human body. Since half of the DNA (deoxyribo nucleic acid) comes from an egg cell and the other half from a sperm cell to create an embryo, this 'parthenogenote' -as it is called - mouse produced from all-female embryos also opens up the possibility of all-male embryos in the future. Parthenogenotes are mostly similar in characteristics with ordinary cells such as skin cells. If injection of sperm into parthenogenotes can produce mammalian offspring, there is every possibility of getting the same result from mitotic cells. 

Thus it offers an opportunity of creating babies from ordinary cell and sperm from two men, making the role of an egg cell redundant. All this is, however, still in theory. And more importantly, a surrogate mother will be necessary all the same unless an artificial ovary is developed for growth of a baby. If and when babies are created from ordinary cells, it gives hope to many men and women unable to produce progenies of their own in a normal way. Even gay men stand a chance to have their babies following the technique. Similarly, women who have lost fertility due to operation, drug use or radiotherapy will have a chance of having babies produced from their own cells. Even a man will have the advantage of using his own cells to produces babies containing a mixture of DNA inherited from his parents. But first of all, the method has to be affordable for people. If this happens, preservation of endangered species will be easier too.

How the world will look if offspring become gender-specific is rather intriguing. Babies without mother or for that matter father have their own share of problems. Family bond is something they will miss. Raising a baby is no small task. A working father or even two fathers will have tough time taking care of a baby. 

For all practical purposes the tactile sensation of breast-feeding will be sorely missed by a baby even if it is given the best of fatherly care. And child specialists are of the opinion that breast-feeding keeps babies out of harm's way in many respects. Will such babies grow up sick and vulnerable to diseases? It is too early to come up with an answer. But even if they develop well physically, their psychological growth in the absence of a mother is likely to suffer. Emotionally they are most likely to be different from others finding their place in a happy and caring family.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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