How are somatic cells and gametes similar

HumArGam - human artificial gametes. Generation and genetic modification of gametes differentiated from human pluripotent stem cells and their ethical and legal evaluation

New developments in stem cell research show that murine iPS cells can be used to generate cells that are similar to primordial germ cells and that they can mature into functional gametes in vivo. Because they are generated in vitro, the iPS cells and primordial germ cells generated in this way are accessible so that genetic modifications, for example using the CRISPR-Cas9 method, can be carried out easily. Assuming that these possibilities can be transferred to humans, a multitude of new biological, medical, legal, philosophical and ethical questions arise. The interdisciplinary joint project will systematically identify these questions and structure them under the aspects of artificiality, availability, usability and manipulability of artificial gametes. The questions are analyzed with regard to applicable ethical and legal arguments, criteria and norms, the argumentative relationships are revealed and their normative significance is examined. Based on the comparison with existing ethical and legal norms, a possible need for regulation for the new fields of generation, use and modification of artificial gametes can be identified. On the basis of these results, the overall aim of the joint project is to develop a normatively reflected framework for dealing with artificial gametes and to present it as the basis for political decision-making.

Sub-projects

SP1: Ethics

Funding code:01GP1604A
Total funding amount:298,798 EUR
Funding period:2016 - 2019
Project leader: Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Heinemann
Address: PTHV Philosophical-Theological University Vallendar gGmbH, Chair of Ethics, Theory and History of Medicine
Pallottistr. 3
56179 Vallendar

SP1: Ethics

Project website

The latest results from the animal kingdom on the in vitro differentiation of functional gametes from pluripotent stem cells show that these methods are likely to be transferable to the human species. In addition, it is to be expected that new genome editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN will allow efficient and targeted genetic modification of the artificial human gametes generated in this way. Both possibilities open up new scenarios in research and can lead to novel forms of human reproduction that raise fundamental ethical questions. The philosophical sub-project (SP 1 Ethics) will analyze in detail and in a structured manner the philosophical and ethical questions that concern the generation, modification and use of gametes generated from human pluripotent stem cells, and develop the ethical profile of this field of activity. The overarching goal of the project is to develop an ethically reflected normative framework for the possible creation and use of artificial human gametes in close cooperation with the legal and biological sub-project. This should serve as the basis for a public political discourse, which also deals with the question of the legal need for regulation.

SP2: Law

Funding code:01GP1604B
Total funding amount:280,009 EUR
Funding period:2016 - 2019
Project leader: Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Dederer
Address: University of Passau, Faculty of Law, Chair of Public Law, Constitutional and Administrative Law, International Law, European and International Business Law
Innstrasse 39
94032 Passau

SP2: Law

The legal sub-project will analyze in detail the legal issues that encompass the generation, modification and use of gametes derived from human pluripotent stem cells. The enormous variety of legal questions will be systematized and answered in detail and comprehensively. The findings of the ethical and biological sub-projects are of direct relevance for the thorough investigation of the legal problems that arise. The legal analysis will be based on two central hypotheses, which are detailed in the application of the joint project. 1) Functional human gametes can be generated from iPS cells obtained by reprogramming somatic cells. 2) CRISPR-Cas9 or TALEN are efficient, high-precision instruments for the genetic modification of iPS cells, iPS cell-derived primordial germ cells (PGC) and iPS-cell-derived gametes. In accordance with the overall concept of the joint project, the legal research field is characterized by four aspects that represent the special characteristics of iPS cell-derived gametes: "artificiality", "availability", "usability", "manipulability".

SP 3: Biology

Funding code:01GP1604C
Total funding amount:130,570 EUR
Funding period:2016 - 2019
Project leader: Prof. Dr. Tobias Cantz
Address: Hannover Medical School, REBIRTH AG Cluster of Excellence, Translational Hepatology and Stem Cell Biology
Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1
30625 Hanover

SP 3: Biology

New developments in stem cell research show that primordial germ cells can be generated from murine iPS cells, which can then mature into functional gametes in vivo. Because they are generated in vitro, these cells are relatively easily accessible for genetic modifications. Assuming that these possibilities can be transferred to humans, a multitude of novel biomedical, legal and philosophical questions arise. This should systematically identify the interdisciplinary joint project and structure it under the aspects of artificiality, availability, usability and manipulability of artificial gametes. This subproject is intended to review the relevant literature in the field of gametogenesis, the genetic modification of gametes and the newer therapeutic approaches in reproductive medicine and anticipate new developments that will enable the ethical and legal framework for the use of human artificial gametes in research and reproductive medicine as well as will be relevant for the genetic modification of artificial germ cells.