SEGa. The science and ethics of stem cell derived gametes

Start - End 
2016 - 2020 (ongoing)
Department of Philosophy and moral sciences
Other institution(s) 
faculty of medicine and health sciences
faculty of pharmaceutical sciences
Research group(s) 



The main objective of this project is to evaluate whether  a clinical use of stem cell-derived (SCD) patient-specific gametes could be feasible, safe and acceptable. Valorisation in this field will only be possible if further technical achievements are made and if the technical developments survive the test of ethical scrutiny and societal acceptability. Societal impact of the development of SCD gametes is so important, that it is impossible to “do the science” without “the ethics”. 

The project is built around nine scientific objectives. Our goal is

  • WP1: To clarify and critically scrutinize the importance of genetic parenthood and to analyse the problems related to donor conception
  • WP2: To analyse the desirability of gamete derivation from stem cells
  • WP3: To create  patient-specific pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) in a naive state via somatic cell nuclear transfer and via the production of induced pluripotent stem cells
  • WP4: To induce oogenesis in vitro from these PSCs via primordial germ cells
  • WP5: To induce spermatogenesis in vitro from these PSCs directly
  • WP6: To assess the (epi-)genetic normality of the human PSCs and stem cell-derived gametes by comparison to in vivo produced gametes
  • WP7: To investigate the modalities of responsible innovation in ART
  • WP8: To anticipate on the societal issues that would arise if stem cell derived gametes could one day be produced in a safe and affordable way
  • WP9: To organise valorisation and management of the project 

A number of valorisation objectives have been defined. We aim to

  • VO1: Evaluate the development of a technology to create patient-specific gametes derived from stem cells from an ethical point of view
  • VO2: Evaluate the development of a technology to create patient-specific gametes derived from stem cells from a scientific point of view
  • VO3: Facilitate a better understanding of the importance of genetic parenthood and of the extent to which we should accommodate the need/desire for genetic parenthood
  • VO4: Create greater awareness regarding infertility and third party reproduction and obtain a critical insight into the problems commonly associated with donor conception
  • VO5: Identifify opportunities generated by SCD gamete development for non-patient use
  • VO6: Provide clarification on the requirements for responsible innovation in medically assisted reproduction and on the extent to which a physician offering innovative treatments to his/her patients is responsible for ‘the welfare of the future child’
  • VO7: Create clarity about possible reasons to include or exclude certain groups of potential end-users of SCD-gametes. This should not only serve general awareness, but could also advise law makers
  • VO8: Anticipate the soft impact of this research on society
  • VO9: Create a knowledge base of human gametogenesis
  • VO10: Develop clinical-grade (patient-specific) gametes to replace gamete donation and provide an alternative for fertility preservation 



Phd Student(s)


Guido de Wert

Universiteit Maastricht

Karen Sermon

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Petra De Sutter

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences