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IVG and the poly-family

You must have often heard people affectionately refer to their spouses as their "better half". However, for some, one half is just not enough. Rather, their concept of the other half is made up of many different one-thirds and quarters.

Polyamory or 'multiple loves' is the practice of having multiple love interests, whereas polygamy is an arrangement, where an individual has more than one spouse. Although it can be dated back to centuries ago, polygamy is a rather alien concept in the modern day society, which stems from the belief that it inherently promotes gender inequality.

Critics of polygamy argue that the very framework threatens the institution of marriage and exclusivity by treating women, (in case of polygyny), and men, (in case of polyandry) as instruments for furthering some other agenda apart from simply celebrating love and building a family.

Opponents to that school of thought believe that since the modern day society accepts and encourages all forms of non-traditional marriages such as those of same sex/LGBTQ couples, similarly polyamory/polygamy should also be accepted in a similar fashion.

The concept of having multiple partners is nothing novel indeed. In many societies and countries, it is in fact legal to have more than one spouse. The instance of having multiple wives is more pronounced in countries where polygamy is legal and can actually be traced back to prehistoric times where men going to war were encouraged to take in war widows, or in the case of societies relying predominantly on agriculture where extensive manpower was required.

Fast forward to today, the shift towards non-traditional family structures is slowly paving the way for polygamy once again. However, in most modern cases, such non-binary couples are not together because of a pressing social need but merely because of their belief in the non-exclusivity of marriage. The existence of non-binary households also leads to raising kids in a family with more than two parents, a concept most people still find hard to digest.

With the phenomenal advances in fertility science however, it is apparently now possible for couples and families of all kinds and configurations to have biological kids without even requiring gametes, the fundamental sperm and egg cells needed for procreation.

In-vitro gametogenesis might be a slightly unfamiliar term to many, however it's been slowly making strides in the world of assisted reproductive technology. Initially tested on mice by scientists in Japan, IVG is a sweeping advancement in reproductive medicine that allows the use of any kind of adult cells from the body, (e.g. skin cells) to take the form of fundamental reproductive building blocks: the egg and sperm cells.

The process involves collecting skin or blood cells to reverse engineer a special type of cells knowns as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs are basically cells that have been genetically programmed to reach an embryonic stage from where they can take the shape of any type of cells. So in an IVG procedure, the iPSCs can hypothetically be used to turn into sperm and egg cells, ready to start a regular IVF process.

"In 20 to 40 years, people will still have sex. But when they want to make babies, they'll go to a lab," Stanford University Professor Henry T. Greely predicts.

Although the technology is yet to be implemented in human reproduction, the successful trials on mice indicate that it can indeed be utilized in future for candidates for whom natural conception is difficult or not possible at all without the assistance of a donor or carrier. It's also important to note, that if and when commercially available, IVG could enable same-sex/LGBTQ, polygamous, or single-parent families to have biological children, genetically related to each parent.

Although IVG is still not commercially available to be used a treatment option, advances in the technology have shown considerable potential towards eradicating infertility altogether. The possibilities are nearly endless with a solution like IVG, with essentially anyone being able to have a biological child of their own, without ever needing the assistance of sperm or egg donors.


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