Ability to Create Eggs from Skin Cells Offers Future New Options for Infertility Treatment

An exciting breakthrough in the field of assisted reproductive technology was reported last month in the journal Science: a team of Japanese scientists successfully produced viable eggs from the skin cells of mice. The same Japanese scientific team has already successfully created sperm from the embryonic  stem cells of mice.

The announcement that Dr. Katsuhiko Hiyashi and his team have been able to generate both sperm and eggs from stem cells creates a multitude of future possibilities for couples with fertility concerns and for LGBT couples who want to become parents. The new findings also are likely to generate significant controversy and debate.

What is particularly exciting about this latest accomplishment, however, is that the eggs were created not from embryonic stem cells but rather from skin cells that were induced back to an immature state of being that is consistent with that of an undeveloped embryo.

A genetic technique was used to turn the cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) which have the same properties as embryonic stem cells.

The impact of this discovery is extraordinary for infertile intended parents who want to bear biologically related children. Stanford University bioethicist Hank Greely had this comment during an “All Things Considered” interview on NPR.

Wow. That's my general reaction. Repairing hearts, repairing brains, repairing kidneys, that's all good and important, and we'd all love to be able to do that. But this involves making the next generation.

The ability to “make the next generation” is a lofty goal that, until this development, seemed to be a distant dream, on the outskirts of scientific capacity. As the researchers themselves stated:

"Our system serves as a robust foundation to investigate and further reconstitute female germline development in vitro (in the laboratory), not only in mice, but also in other mammals, including humans."

These newest advances are only the latest in a series of important leaps in understanding how to generate stem cells. In fact, just a few days after the announcement from Japan, two scientists (Dr. John B. Gurdon and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their foundational work in regenerative medicine.

As far back as the 1960s Dr. Gurdon, from the University of Cambridge in England, was able to clone a frog by extracting DNA from a frog’s cell nucleus. This launched the detailed study of genes and the agents that control them.

In 2006 Dr. Yamanaka, from Kyoto University in Japan, uncovered another key to these latest advances. He discovered that injecting four agents into an adult cell would result in that cell reverting to its primitive, or stem cell, state. This discovery meant the supply of stem cells was now virtually limitless, allowing an expansion of stem cell studies.

As with any scientific advancement, the ability to create eggs from skin cells comes with a myriad of potential benefits, including therapies for infertile couples and advances in treatment of cancer, heart disease, brain disease and more. But some other potential consequences may create controversy and present ethical challenges.

The issue of embryonic stem cell research historically has been the source of substantial debate and disagreement, primarily due to the fact that by harvesting stem cells from embryos the embryos are destroyed. For some people, the destruction of the embryo conflicts with personal ethics and beliefs.

The most recent discovery in Japan has the potential of eliminating this ethical objection. The ability to use adult skin stem cells rather than embryonic stem cells for treatment of infertility and disease should overcome many of the current objections to the scientific use of stem cells.

The use of skin stem cells opens the way to potentially create a vast number of eggs on which to experiment, Greely said. Combined with the ability to also create sperm, the Japanese team’s discovery also could change the options available to gay and lesbian couples who want children who are genetically their own.

As with any new technological advancement, the ability to create embryos in new ways will undoubtedly create the need for new, responsive laws. At IFLG, we continually research changes in laws affecting assisted reproductive technology in the United States and abroad. I continue to be fascinated by the latest technological miracles in ART and challenged by the need to anticipate how the law will adapt and apply to new technologies.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343



New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016



Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.