A UK bioethicist claims that a legal loophole could allow male couples to have their own genetic child, using cell nuclear transfer- the technique used to clone Dolly the sheep. Dr Calum MacKellar, a lecturer in bioethics and biochemistry at Edinburgh University, says that it is 'theoretically possible' to have a child born with two biological fathers. A 'male egg' could be created by removing the genetic information from an egg provided by a donor, and replacing it with that of a single sperm. The male egg could then be fertilised in vitro using sperm from a second man, and the resulting embryo allowed to develop in a surrogate mother, he says.
Dr MacKellar, who runs the non-profit organisation European Bioethical Research, says that the ethical issues raised by such a development were not covered in Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson's recent report on cloning. One of the report's recommendations was to allow cell nuclear transfer for women with mitochondrial diseases, which are caused by alterations in the genetic information found outside of the cell nucleus. But Dr MacKellar claims this could also be interpreted as allowing the creation of 'male eggs'.
Most experts believe that same-sex conceptions will not be possible in the foreseeable future. 'You cannot get a viable offspring under any circumstances if you only have a paternal contribution' said Professor Azim Surani, of the Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology, Cambridge. This is due to a process called imprinting, in which certain vital genes are only switched on either in the egg or sperm.