Ethics and synthetic gametes

Bioethics. 2005 Apr;19(2):146-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2005.00431.x.


The recent in vitro derivation of gamete-like cells from mouse embryonic stem (mES) cells is a major breakthrough and lays down several challenges, both for the further scientific investigation and for the bioethical and biolegal discourse. We refer here to these cells as gamete-like (sperm-like or oocyte-like, respectively), because at present there is still no evidence that these cells behave fully like bona fide sperm or oocytes, lacking the fundamental proof, i.e. combination with a normally derived gamete of the opposite sex to yield a normal individual. However, the results published so far do show that these cells share some defining features of gametes. We discuss these results in the light of the bioethical and legal questions that are likely to arise would the same process become possible with human embryonic stem (hES) cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Organism / adverse effects
  • Cloning, Organism / ethics*
  • Cloning, Organism / methods*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / physiology
  • Embryo Research / ethics
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Engineering / ethics*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genomic Imprinting
  • Germ Cells / cytology*
  • Homosexuality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / ethics*
  • Safety
  • Stem Cells / cytology*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial