In Vitro is set over thirty years in the future. It’s about three generations of women: Rachel, her daughter Sofia and her grand-daughter, Lillian.
Back in 2010 Rachel was a fiercely ambitious research scientist working in the field of genetics, researching into artificial gametes. After years of trial and error, she perfected a way of manufacturing sperm from her own cells. Unable to get her work published, she took matters into her own hands and impregnated herself with her own sperm.
She carried the child to full-term and gave birth to a seemingly healthy girl, Sofia. When the press got hold of the story, Rachel’s world was turned upside down. Ostracised by some of her scientist colleagues and pilloried in the press and parliament, she and Sofia went into hiding.
Now, years later in 2044, Sofia, still only in her thirties, dies of cancer. She’d been scientifically monitored and experimented on all her life but no-one can say for sure whether or not the manner of her birth has caused her early death.
In the intervening years, Rachel’s work has been refined and marketed and many children have now been born to mothers who have had sperm manufactured from their own cells - women who have had a child to whom they are both mother and father.
But now Sofia is dead, the geneticist’s attention has turned to her daughter, Lillian, who carries Sofia’s genes. Rachel has to decide whether or not to allow Lillian to live with the kind of attention and experimentation Sofia had to endure. What of the future for other “Rachel” children? Might they too die young? And what does Rachel think of her work now? Has her contribution made the world a better place — does she regret what she did — or is all not quite so clear cut?
Either way, time is pressing, and Lillian is at risk. What will Rachel do: let her step into Sofia’s shoes and become the focus for further research, or will they both run?