Biotech is racing to the day when 75-year-old women will be starting families
Those up to speed on the fast-evolving field of reproductive biotech (depicted in my thriller Biohack) are probably familiar with the term transhumanism. It's what comes after the current phase of humanity, marked for tens of thousands of years by random rolls of the genetic dice.
The site Quartz has a new piece that's at once illuminating and entertaining: Transhumanist science will free women from their biological clocks. In it, writer Zoltan Istvan, a transhumanist (to be clear, he's probably not a post-human but rather a proponent of transhumanism), writes that scientists think women in their 50s will routinely begin starting families within the next decade, and 75-year-olds perhaps a decade later. Starting families meaning having babies.
From the article:
Women’s biological clocks drive human conception—and, in turn, human history.
Biology’s inflexible window of female fertility is generally agreed to be between the ages 18 and 35. Any older, and the risk of miscarrying, not getting pregnant at all, or bearing unhealthy children skyrockets. When the average lifespan for a woman in the Western world now hovers at around 80 years old, this means that less than 25% of her life can be spent easily (and safely) procreating.
Men have the luxury of being able sow their seed for most of their lives with few health ramifications (which is why someone like 72-year-old US president Donald Trump has a 12-year-old child). By comparison, the average woman will only ovulate 300 to 400 eggs in her lifetime, which means she only has the same amount of menstrual cycles to ever pursue procreation.
This seemingly unfair accident of human biology is all about to change, thanks to transhumanist science. Genetic editing combined with stem-cell technology will likely make it safer for a 50-year-old woman to have a baby in 2028 than for a 25-year-old woman in 2018. In two decades’ time, healthy 75-year-old women could be starting new families once more.
Scientists are working on this by converting skin cells into stem cells, which are cells that can turn into other types of cells. They can then turn these stem cells into women’s eggs. This technology could allow a woman to have tens of thousands of eggs instead of just that 300 to 500, all from a cotton swab swiped inside the cheek. These stem-cell-conceived eggs can then be mixed with sperm of one’s choosing to create viable embryos, which then are implanted back into the uterus. This process—already trialed in mice—has become known as “in vitro gametogenesis,” or IVG.
But if you thought turning skin flakes into ova was controversial, here’s the kicker: Skin cells can also be turned into sperm. In this way, a single human may soon be able to create its own offspring without a partner. ...
It reads like science fiction, but it's not. It's where the next-gen genetic science is taking us.
I frankly doubt we'll see many women in their 60s and 70s having kids, whether it's medically possible or not. Do you?
It's certainly possible, so who knows? Technology changes culture, so hang on tight.