Guest Author - Meghann Hodges
Procreation is an instinctual desire that most people have at some point in their life. For some, it goes far beyond the animalistic longing, to a much deeper yearning to create life. To care and nurture a child, helping the baby grow and develop, influencing its personality and ultimately shaping what kind of person they might become, is a gift that many take for granted.
Many gay and lesbian couples are faced with the laws of nature when it comes to reproduction. While they have the love and desire to create a child together, they lack the necessary ability to produce a genetically biological child with one another. While most turn to artificial insemination, In Vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers, and adoption as their hope to create a family, there may be a new possibility on the horizon.
Karim Nayernia, a stem cell biologist at Newcastle University in the UK, has had positive results with stem cell research. He was able to take female bone marrow and create spermatogonia, which is an immature sperm cell before it goes through the process of meiosis. Meiosis is the process of cells dividing, which is needed in order for reproduction to occur. According to studies, Nayernia was able to make the spermatogonia from male bone marrow enter meiosis, but has been unsuccessful at getting the female spermatogonia to. However he remains optimistic that it will be possible for female DNA to be used to create a completely functional female sperm, it will just take time.
Male eggs might be a tad easier to create than female sperm. A Brazilian team led by Irina Kerkis claims to have created eggs from the embryotic stem cells of male mice. They are starting experiments in human male embryotic stems cell egg production and are confident that they will be able to produce male eggs from skin cells. So in theory, a gay man could donate his skin cells to be made into viable eggs, which could then be fertilized by his partnerís sperm and implanted into a surrogate.
As new fertility options advance, more ethical and political issues may arise. Same-sex marriage and adoption is already a controversial issue, and the idea of artificially created male eggs and female sperm might not sit well with the opinionated religious community. Some argue that the probable cost and issues with safety of the embryo might put off members of the GLBT community, but there may be some out there who would really want this option. It is a common reaction to want what you are told you cannot have, and people want to have children.
Will there be a future where a person falls in love with another person, gets married (or not), and decides to fulfill that instinctual and animalistic yearning to procreate, without genetic or gender restrictions? Hard to say for sure. In the meantime there are plenty of gay and lesbian couples who are content starting families with donated eggs and sperm, or adopting children who need a home.