No need to panic, says British scientist
Human sperm have been created using embryonic stem cells for the first time. In a study in the journal Stem Cells and Development, Professor Karim Nayernia, of the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute claims that his team has created "In Vitro Derived sperm" in the laboratory.
Professor Nayernia says: "This is an important development as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men – why it happens and what is causing it. This understanding could help us develop new ways to help couples suffering infertility so they can have a child which is genetically their own." However, practical applications are probably a decade away, as the cells are not fully developed sperm cells.
This development obviously raises a number of ethical issues, notably the possibility of two women creating sperm so that they can have a child together without male intervention. However, the British scientists are spinning their work as an extension of infertility research.
"While we can understand that some people may have concerns, this does not mean that humans can be produced ‘in a dish’ and we have no intention of doing this. This work is a way of investigating why some people are infertile and the reasons behind it. If we have a better understanding of what’s going on it could lead to new ways of treating infertility," says Professor Nayernia.
Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, summed up those "concerns" by declaring that the research was "totally wrong". "This is man at his maddest," she said. "I think that sometimes we have to stop meddling and accept infertility. Science must be totally ethical and totally safe – this is neither."
The news prompted a light-hearted look at a world without men by Telegraph columnist Rowan Pelling: "Without men, there would be no one to read Joseph Conrad or Norman Mailer, to remove spiders from the bath, or (important one, this) to tell women they’re pretty. And say what you like, but they were the lion-hearted fools who invented the idea of ‘women and children first’. I say we keep them." ~ London Telegraph, July 8; NESCI press release, July 8
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