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Science

How Multiplex Parenting May Work Going Into The Future

Law professor Sonia Suter of George Washington University discusses her research into 'in vitro gametogenesis' or IVG, which would theoretically enable the possibility of multiple parents creating a single offspring - for example, a child with 32 parents, and the legal, social and ethical ramifications involved.

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"We think of a parent as being the person who gives you 50 percent of your DNA and this person is giving you all your DNA but not in the exact same combination."

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Scott Olson Andre Malerba China Photos Brent Stirton
TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

With the IVG, you don't need to have egg and sperm, there are cells that can be made to develop into sperm or egg cells so that a woman could produce a sperm cell or a man can produce an egg cell, which means that gay couples could potentially reproduce using only the DNA from that couple. A single person could reproduce using just his or her own DNA, is that correct? - Yeah, I mean once the technology gets to that stage, I mean we can't do it right now, but it is plausible that we could do it in the future. One of the big questions will be whether we could do it safely, but yes that's exactly the idea, that you could produce an egg in a female, I mean, well you could take an egg from one female and then produce a sperm in another female and then a lesbian couple could have a child that would be genetically related to both of them. I mean I think that kind of use of IVG, if it becomes safe enough to use for reproduction would be much, much more common than muliplex parenting, and it would offer  real benefits for individuals who aren't able to have biologically related children right now, and this would be a technology that would allow them to do that. - And if a single person was to use just his or her own DNA, and go through this process and be both father and mother, and you know I don't mean genetica- Um I don't mean gender-wise to the offspring. -Right. - Would the offspring be like a clone? I mean would the have... Would they look just like the... - Well that's, yeah, that's the really tricky one and I think that's actually the most problematic use of this technology, so they wouldn't be a clone because they wouldn't have an exact combination of DNA that the individual, that the parent would have. They might have double versions, our genes come in pairs, so they might have two copies of the parent's maternal genes and two copies of the parent's paternal genes in another area, so they would be doubling in some areas, having the same combination in others, it's really hard to figure out what we would call that relationship. And whether it's really a parent/child relationship, because we think of a parent as being the person who gives you 50 percent of your DNA and this person is giving you all your DNA but not in the exact same combination of your own DNA, and so that's a sort of strange combination and actually I think raises risks of recessive diseases in the same way that we don't think people should intermarry, this is like intermarrying, you know, within a family sort of on steroids. This is incestuous, yeah. - Incest with yourself.