We all know that IVF and other innovations can help infertile couples have children. But can science also help family structures emerge that have never existed before, like kids with three parents? It already has. Here are four examples.
On the TV series Caprica, the pagan culture on an alien planet produces very unusual families. Gay marriage is commonplace, as are group marriages with multiple husbands and wives. These kinds of non-traditional families exist because the planet Caprica has a very different culture from Earth's.
But today on our own planet, science is creating families that seem to be ripped from the pages of science fiction - or from futurist prognostication. Here are some of the unusual family structures that exist on our planet right now.
1. A child with three genetic parents.
Two years ago, British scientists announced that they had perfected an IVF technique that would allow them to create children with three genetic parents. (Read their scientific paper here.) Using a process called ooplasmic transfer, which has already been used to created genetically-altered children, doctors inject mitochondrial DNA from one woman into the egg of another - and then inject a third dose of DNA from the father in the classical nuclear DNA transfer process. Presto - you have mitochondrial DNA from one woman, and nuclear DNA from another woman and the father. While ooplasmic transfer and nuclear transfer have both been done successfully, there are no reports yet on babies born who are the product of both. However, researchers say it is likely to happen within the next year because the process is sound and ooplasmic transfer can protect the baby from certain genetic diseases inherited from the mother.