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Biotech Medicine Science

Human Sperm Produced In the Laboratory 368

Posted by timothy
from the that's-not-starting-from-scratch dept.
duh P3rf3ss3r writes "The BBC is carrying a report from a team of researchers at Newcastle University who claim to have developed a the first 'artificial' human sperm from stem cells. The research, reported in the journal Stem Cells and Development, involved selecting meristematic germ cells from a human embryonic stem cell culture and inducing meiosis, thus producing a haploid gamete. The authors claim that the resulting sperm are fully formed, mature, human sperm cells but the announcement has been greeted with mixed reaction from colleagues who claim the procedure is ethically questionable and that the gametes produced are of inferior levels of maturation."
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Human Sperm Produced In the Laboratory

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  • by al0ha (1262684) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:24PM (#28625961) Journal
    Once we can produce eggs in the lab, we are one step closer to a "Matrix" type reality for the future of humanity.
  • Re:Er.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Defakto (813358) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:42PM (#28626281)

    What's unethical about this?

    The use would be the unethical portion and science because there is no guarantee that what results from the sperm-egg coupling using one of this would be a viable, working person. Religious and moral beliefs aside I think this is a great thing. It may not now help us understand how our bodies work but it may lead to it in the future. I'm a firm believer that cloning has a huge potential in the long term for helping out humanity as a race.

  • Re:Sperm Shortage? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by powerlord (28156) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:46PM (#28626381) Journal

    What is the point of making sperm from stem cells?

    Is there a sperm shortage I wasn't aware of?

    Will this allow better quality control?

    I know a couple who'd love to conceive a child but he was diagnosed as impotent.

    If this process can be perfected, and if they can harvest Adult Stem Cells from him, then this would allow them to conceive a child together.

    Something that I know would make them both very happy.

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:47PM (#28626393)

    If a woman gets your blood, then she can bear your children? Wow! This will be a great argument for deadbeat dads! Now they can truthfully say "I never had sexual relations with that woman."

    Black markets for the blood of rich men . . .
    Personal IP rights in your personal blood composition . . .

    Wow, the world got more interesting on 7/08/2009!!!!

  • Re:One implication (Score:3, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:06PM (#28627599)

    Everything you know about creating life is wrong...

    1. You need two parents.
          False: cloning, X0 conception (Also called Turner syndrome).

    2. The parents must be of the opposite sex.
          False: Stem cell research can now create both eggs and sperm using DNA from another. DNA from a male can be inserted into an egg, and DNA from a female can be inserted into a sperm, although this has only been accomplished in a laboratory so far, and did not lead to viability.

    3. You need a parent at all.
          Partly true: Present technology cannot take a child from conception to birth without involvement of a female at some point during the maturation cycle. However, womb transplantation and IVF means that the question of which female is now open-ended.

  • Moral issues? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:15PM (#28627679)

    Ethical concerns? I'm getting tired of silly ideological grounds against genetic manipulation. "Natural" does not mean better," and so long as nobody is hurt by doing this then there's no problem. People worried about ethical concerns over things like this are just luddities afraid of human biological progress. All humans are essentially biological machines, and there are no souls, and the faster people realize that the sooner we can progress past our silly human limitations.

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ElKry (1544795) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:41PM (#28628023)
    And, on a chilling (for me) twist, if they took stem cells from a woman, they could generate some sperm for her, thereby allowing her to impregnate herself .
  • Re:One implication (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thesandtiger (819476) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @07:04PM (#28629667)

    Infertile heterosexual couples can't currently conceive children. This could grant that ability. That's huge. So how is the sexual orientation of the couple relevant?

    If the OP had said "This will allow people who couldn't have conceived the ability to have children, this opens up a can of worms" then sure - but he (and you) specifically mention the sexual orientation of the couples as being relevant. I'm just trying to understand why.

    Is it because gay people would be able to have children that share the dna from 2 same-sex parents? Is it because gay people having kids is an ethical concern? Is it squeamishness about gay folks being able to have children?

  • Re:One implication (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thiez (1281866) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @07:04PM (#28629669)

    I was going to make a 'Having chromosomes can really bring you Down!' joke but feel the need to point out that humans have 2 * 23 = 46 chromosomes. Having 52 chromosomes means you're a platypus.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @07:56PM (#28630203)

    Well, guess how the "pill" works: By partially simulating the same hormonal imbalance of a pregnant women!

    So she is constantly "pregnant" somehow, as long as she takes them.

    If you think about, how animals, when pregnant, are way more defensive and aggressive,
    and when the "pill" started to be used, this could somehow explain the feminist movement, which started at the same time. ^^

    I wonder what would happen, if we would get our women off the "pill" and used condoms for a year.
    Maybe it would be worth the lack of feel. ^^

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @08:24PM (#28630487)

    Sperm doesn't have pairs of chromesomes, it has only one. But you're right, if you make sperm from female stem cells it could only have an X chromesome, never a Y chromesome, so you'd only get female offspring.

    The only inherent loss of genetic diversity would be the Y chromesome, which doesn't have much genetic information on it anyway. The wiki page on the Y chromesome [wikipedia.org] points out that "the human Y chromosome itself contains only 78 working genes, compared to close to 1500 working genes on the X chromosome" and none of the 78 are "vital." For women anyway for obvious reasons.

    As long as the female that the sperm are derived from isn't closely related to the female that produces the egg, it wouldn't seem like there would be diversity loss.

  • Re:So what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bitt3n (941736) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @08:28PM (#28630531)

    I wasn't sure where you were going until the end there. That would be entertaining. How long before we'd see the first attempts at defining a person as the result of a straight man's sperm fertilizing a straight female's egg in a marriage. Probably called "Defense of humanity" act.

    except gay people can have straight kids, so you'd actually want to somehow ask the sperm (nicely) whether he was gay. Then if he says yes, you'll need to freeze him until scientists develop a cure (for homosexuality or religion, take your pick)

  • Re:Sperm Shortage? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bitt3n (941736) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @08:37PM (#28630617)
    despite the flamebait mod, OP has a valid point, namely the fact that, as with curing any diseases with a genetic basis, one is affecting the germ line of the next generation (which now contains the disease, whereas the absence of a cure would have reduced this likelihood). Many people are against direct germ-line therapy (ie, deliberately introducing changes into a sperm cell so that the baby grows up with a larger brain or whatever). Yet it's conceivable that the result of fixes like this will be that germ-line therapy is necessary to avoid the proliferation of genetic diseases on account of somatic cell cures. The alternative will be children with multiple serious diseases that must be cured each generation at great potential cost.
  • Re:So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @10:10PM (#28631359) Journal
    No. You would need to breed out every mismatched set of genes she has before the offspring would start bearing clones of themselves.

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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