In Vitro Film

This project was a collaboration between Anna Smajdor and film-makers Tom Lloyd and Tim Fleming. The film was made with the help of a Wellcome Trust grant, and with the close co-operation of Karim Nayernia, a scientist working in the field of artificial gametes.

Artificial gametes are sperm or egg cells that have been created in a laboratory. This may be achieved through manipulating embryonic stem cells, or through modifying adult cells to behave like sperm or egg cells. To date, no human beings are known to have been born using artificial gametes, but scientists have reported the birth of mice following the use of this technique.

The development and use of artificial gametes in humans is likely to raise a number of ethical questions. How will we know when or if it is safe to try these cells in human reproduction for the first time? How long would we need to wait before being sure that the technique is safe? What would it mean if sperm can be obtained from a woman’s cells, or conversely if eggs can be obtained from a man?

The film is available for anyone to watch online, free of charge: In Vitro Film


Rachel is a brilliant young scientist working on reprogramming cells – which it is hoped will enable people to survive cancer. Arrogant and ambitious, she resents what she perceives to be hindrances to her career in the form of untrustworthy colleagues and competitors, and a restrictive regulatory system. One of her discoveries is that she can create what seem to be functional sperm type cells from bone marrow. She decides to make her name in this field by undertaking a unique and controversial experiment.

Three decades later, Rachel’s technique has become commonplace as a means of helping people to have children. But the first child born as a result of Rachel’s experiment is desperately ill. Is her sickness caused by the circumstances of her conception? If so, what lies ahead for other children conceived using the same technique?

It is not necessary to seek permission before watching the film, or using it for teaching purposes. However, if you have any comments or queries, or feedback I am always pleased to hear from people who have used, or are planning to use the film.