In what appears remarkably like a redundancy plan for virile men, British scientists claim to have created human sperm using embryonic stem cells.
The scientists, however, allayed fears of millions of men by stressing the sperm, developed from stem cells with (male) XY chromosomes, would be used for infertility treatment, not reproduction.
“This understanding could help us develop new ways to assist couples suffering infertility, so they can have a child which is genetically their own,” said lead researcher Professor Karim Nayernia from Newcastle University, 400 km north of London, who developed the new technique in collaboration with the Northeast England Stem Cell Institute.
The work involved developing stem cells with (male) XY chromosomes into germline cells, which can pass their genetic material to future generations. These were then prompted to complete meiosis, or cell division, which then produced fully mature, functional sperm.
Stem cells are undifferentiated (blank) cells that can be developed into specialised tissues and organs.
Other British experts have, however, expressed doubts about the study, which has been published in the journal Stem Cells and Development.
Genetic expert Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, from the UK’s Institute of Medical Research, said, “They need much better evidence that such in-vitro derived sperm are normal.”
He was supported by many other specialists – all men – who said they preferred the real thing.
Men can argue all they want, but women are likely to have the last word on this.
— With agencies