SUSAN DENTZER: There are many obstacles to this work going forward that are not religious or philosophical, but that are just practical, one of which is the difficulty of getting human eggs. And the sheet number of them that you had to [use] in order to achieve results. Let's talk about that. How much of an obstacle is that to your work here?
MICHAEL WEST: Well, it certainly is the obstacle to our work. It's the rate-limiting step. Our scientists count the time until we have this technology working... and it likely will be the rate-limiting step for application around the world to carry a series like diabetes, because it would require 16 million diabetics. It would require at minimum 16 million eggs, according to the current way of thinking about things.
So how would this be accomplished? I can imagine first of all that just as family members are willing to do the extreme, even donate a kidney to save a life of a fellow family member, or even a stranger at times, I can imagine that some family members that are of reproductive age would be willing to donate some egg cells to save the life of a family member. That's an easy solution perhaps.
What we need is to find a solution to this rate-limiting step. One solution that's a little awkward, a little scary to some people, would be to use a non-human egg cell to reprogram a human cell, say a mouse egg cell, a cow egg cell, or a rabbit egg cell.
What people are concerned about when you talk about that scenario is aren't we making part people-part human or something, or part animal? We'll see. The science there is still under development.
If we can make something like that work, I think we should consider it. Drinking cow's milk doesn't make you a cow. Exposing DNA to some animal proteins wouldn't in any sense make cells that are part human, part cow.
But it's premature to talk about these next steps, yet they're still under development. But we will have to find a way of making this technology inexpensive [and] widely available -- not just available to wealthy people who can afford it. And so these are our challenges looking forward into the future.