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a graphic featuring test tubes and gametes

Scientists are getting closer to the possibility of making a new person from skin or blood cells – without the need for sex.

This approach goes well beyond in vitro fertilization, which combines egg and sperm in a laboratory, because it doesn't require natural eggs or sperm.

Called in vitro gametogenesis, or IVG, it promises to someday provide a cure for many types of infertility, to slow or even turn off biological clocks, and to enable the kind of embryo selection that sends chills up many spines.

In a three-day meeting last week at the National Academies of Sciences, researchers eagerly discussed their work, advocates laid out their vision for making IVG useful, and ethicists squirmed in their seats.

"The search for a 'perfect' race, 'perfect' baby, 'perfect generation' is not science fiction," Amrita Pande, a sociologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, told the group Thursday. 

The technology for making babies from cells other than eggs and sperm still remains a decade away or more.

But now – before the science turns possibility into reality – is a good time for the public to consider the implications of IVG...