Biomedical CEO believes it’ll soon be possible for same-sex couples to share biological children

An LGBTQ+ Family (two dads and a kid in the middle) smiling joyfully, laying on top of a rainbow flag and looking up at the camera
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Scientists have long been experimenting with ways to artificially grow human sperm and eggs with which to create children in a process called in-vitro gametogenesis (IVG). And while the concept has mostly been thought of as something out of a sci-fi film, one company claims it’s getting close to the real thing.

Conception, founded and run by Matt Krisiloff, wants to make it possible for couples with insurmountable fertility issues to reproduce by creating sperm and eggs from DNA samples. Krisiloff, who is gay, said his biggest inspiration for the work is the ability it would give same-sex couples to share biological children. It would also help a number of other people, such as those with uteruses whose eggs are too old to be viable.

“Basically, we’re trying to turn a type of stem cell called an induced pluripotent stem cell into a human egg, ultimately with the goal – if it’s safe – to do it for fertility purposes,” Krisiloff told NPR. The Conception staff told the station that they have gotten closer than any other researchers at making this supposed pipe dream a reality.

“There is something intrinsic, sharing a life that is half me and half my husband,” said one of the Conception co-founders, Pablo Hurtado, who is also gay. “I don’t have the capacity right now, and I am devoting my life to try to change that.”

While Krisiloff claims to be getting close, he acknowledges there is still a lot to be done before they can confirm that not only is the process possible, but also that it is safe. Since Conception has not revealed much about its work, other scientists have not been able to verify their claims.

But in addition to the energy surrounding their progress, there are also concerns.

“Combining IVG and genome editing and commercialization, you’ve really got kind of a toxic stew to create people who are supposedly biologically superior to others,” said the head of the Center for Genetics and Society at Berkeley, Marcy Darnovsky. “We don’t want to pave the road toward any kind of future that looks anything like that.”

Stanford University bioethicist Hank Greely added that he’s excited about “the possibility for millions of couples who desperately want to have kids that are genetically half one, half the other, who can’t do that now” but that he also worries about what might happen if people try to use DNA from kids, elderly folks, or dead people. He also raised the possibility someone could steal someone else’s DNA and create a child without their consent. There is also the possibility someone will try to create a baby using only their own DNA.

But Krisiloff seems to think the challenges can be dealt with and said the company is open to government regulation.

“Can it go down pathways where, you know, people try and do weird, like, designer aspects or much more out-there things? Yeah. I mean, I think that’s a fair thing to worry about, and there’s all sorts of gray areas that society really needs to figure out. But, yeah, opening this door for so many more people is – including, you know, me and Pablo – a really cool thing. If it could lead to so many people being able to have families and children being able to have lives, I just think that’s a really beautiful thing.”

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