Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has resulted in more than 5 million births worldwide. However, mainstream ART techniques are not always successful for an estimated 30% of infertile patients in whom gametes are nonviable. Most patients would clearly prefer genetic parenthood, currently possible only via the use of donated gametes or, in future, via the clinical use of artificial gametes (AGs) incorporating parental DNA. Despite much recent progress in the derivation of AGs, significant obstacles remain. Although it is possible to create artificial cells exhibiting some of the molecular and physiological traits of human gametes, they do not yet exhibit the same level of functionality as their in vivo counterparts. Most current effort pays scant attention to confirmation of molecular integrity and clinical applicability of AGs. Here we discuss the various clinical parameters used to assess gamete and embryo viability and discuss markers of gamete function that may be used within future studies attempting to derive AGs. The use of AGs may prove controversial to some members of the general public, and, as such, there is significant need for an appropriate ethical and legal framework governing the clinical use of such cells. However, provided these issues can be successfully overcome, it is highly likely that AGs will represent powerful biological tools for reproductive science, a valuable training resource for embryologists and for potential use in the clinical treatment of human infertility.
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Vol. 87 • No. 5