Males No Longer Needed For Reproduction?
Scientists in Newcastle, UK have figured out how to create sperm cells from human embryos. The researchers believe the work could eventually help men with fertility problems to conceive, though they think it will be at least 5 years before the technique is perfected. Other experts say they are not convinced that fully developed sperm have been created. Full details and video on BBC News
How they did it:
They began with stem cell lines derived from human embryos donated following IVF treatment. The stem cells had been removed when the embryo was a few days old and were stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. The stem cells were brought to body temperature and put in a chemical mixture to encourage them to grow. They were “tagged” with a genetic marker which enabled the scientists to identify and separate so-called “germline” stem cells from which eggs and sperm are developed. The male, XY stem cells underwent the crucial process of “meiosis” – halving the number of chromosomes. The process over creating and developing the sperm took four to six weeks. The Newcastle team say the sperm were fully mature, mobile sperm and they have produced a video to back up the research.
“This understanding could help us develop new ways to help couples suffering infertility so they can have a child which is genetically their own.”
Reminds me of that episode of Star Trek about the planet of women that figured out how to reproduce without men. I often wondered if that would ever be a possibility in my lifetime. But at the cost of extracting them out of a fertilised egg, a developing embryo – this will likely be a topic of huge debate for decades.