Lab-grown babies could be a reality as soon as 2028, scientist claims

The inconceivable may soon be possible for those who can’t conceive.

Japanese scientists have claimed they’re on the cusp of growing human babies in the lab, by incubating eggs and sperm in an artificial womb.

Indeed, tykes from concentrate could be available to mothers in as little as five years, according to Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi, a stem cell biology expert at Kyushu University, the DailyMail has reported.

His team notably used this synthetic surrogacy method to create baby mice from two daddy rodents — as pre-proof-of-concept of the tech’s implications for same-sex parents.

According to the novel study published in March in the journal Nature, the team transformed male mice’s skin cells into pluripotent stem cells, which have the potential to develop into various types of cells or tissues, like a cellular shapeshifter.

Japanese scientists, led by professor Katsuhiko Hayashi (pictured), have claimed they’re on the cusp of growing human babies in the lab, by incubating eggs and sperm in an artificial womb.
Kyushu University

Researchers then grew these cells and treated them with a drug that converted the male rodent stem cells into female cells, thereby producing functional egg cells.

Fertilizing those eggs and implanting this baby blueprint into female mice, meanwhile, resulted in the artificial conception of male mice.

And while only 1% of the embryos — seven out of 630 — grew into live mouse pups, researchers thought the experiment potentially had important implications for human reproduction.

“It’s a very clever strategy,” said Diana Laird, a stem cell and reproductive expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the research. “It’s an important step in both stem cell and reproductive biology.”

Indeed, this process could theoretically be replicated in humans by infusing embryos spawned via pluripotent stem cells into a female womb.

This photo shows a fertile adult male mouse, right, with his offspring and another adult mouse
This photo shows a fertile adult male mouse, right, with his offspring and another adult mouse, in Osaka, Japan in September 2021.
Katsuhiko Hayashi via AP

However, while scientists have managed to engineer rudimentary human eggs and sperm in the lab — a process known as vitro gametogenesis — they have not been able to create bonafide embryos.

In other words, this artificial babymaking method is still in its embryonic stage.

Dr. Hayashi estimated, that it would take around half a decade to replicate egg-like cell production in humans, and 10-20 years of testing to ensure this artificial reproductive method is safe for use in clinics.

One of the concerns is the mutations and errors that may be introduced in a culture dish before using stem cells to make eggs.

newborn in an incubator
The technology was conceived to help those who couldn’t produce children otherwise.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I don’t know whether they’ll be available for reproduction,” the stem cell authority told the Guardian. “Purely in terms of technology, it will be possible [in humans] even in 10 years.”

If it does work out, the tech could provide a major boon for those struggling with infertility, a condition that affects 1 in 6 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Other beneficiaries are same-sex couples, aspiring single parents, and in some cases, surrogates.

“It [the mouse research] might provide a template for enabling more people to have biological children, while circumventing the ethical and legal issues of donor eggs,” Laird and her colleague Jonathan Bayerl wrote in the commentary to the aforementioned Nature study.

Petri dish with 10 mini half an inch plastic dolls
Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi has said that infants grown in labs could be an option by five years from now, the DailyMail reported.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Of course, the idea of lab-grown infants is not without its legal and ethical caveats, namely the eugenics-esque concern that people could engineer “designer” babies by mixing only the top-shelf “baby formula,” per the DailyMail.

There’s also the fear that people could be forced to have a child against their will by using a strand of their hair or piece of skin.

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