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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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  • I SWEAR (Score:4, Funny)

    by Phizzle (1109923) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:21PM (#28625913) Homepage
    I DIDNT DO IT!
  • So what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:23PM (#28625945)
    What's the big deal? I generate human sperm at least once a day and I don't even need a laboratory.
    • by tverbeek (457094)
      And for my next trick, I will produce human blood outside of a laboratory. Could I have a volunteer from the audience to assist me?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      And you almost generated humor there. If you had a lab maybe you could have actually been funny.

      The big deal though is, I would assume actually several things

      1. It's interesting enough that we can generate them in vitro. How sperm are made is better known than some other cell types, but now even the parts we don't know can be more easily studied, since you can watch it in a microscope easier. Changing conditions to determine what sperm need to develop is also going to be easier in a dish than it would t

      • Re:So what? (Score:5, Funny)

        by LordKaT (619540) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:55PM (#28626557) Homepage Journal

        I have a lab and he *HATES* it when I try to generate sperm.

      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        And you almost generated humor there. If you had a lab maybe you could have actually been funny.

        And maybe some blackjack and hookers.

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

        by cashman73 (855518) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @03:55PM (#28627463) Journal
        Or, 3. if they took stem cells from a lesbian, they could generate some sperm for her, thereby along her to impregnate her other female partner. Next, all they need to do is to generate an egg cell from a homosexual male stem cell. Then, once same-sex couples can successfully reproduce, the religious right is going to go apeshit and all hell is going to break loose! ;-)
        • Re:So what? (Score:4, Funny)

          by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:31PM (#28627911)

          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.

          • 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: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:So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Thiez (1281866) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @05:24PM (#28628571)

            You wouldn't want to do that though, since this would basically be incest++. If we ever get the tech to make impregnating yourself with yourself possible, it'll probably get banned because it'd lead to a higher chance of birth defects.

  • Well... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mdm-adph (1030332) <mdmadph@gmail . c om> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:24PM (#28625953) Homepage

    There goes the male sex...? :P

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by AvitarX (172628)

      As long as women don't find out about jar openers I think we're safe.

      • by Dunbal (464142)

        There's also the whole moving furniture about the room and hanging paintings business, too. I think we're safe for a while, until they manage to train the apes properly.

    • by noundi (1044080)
      Only if you won't survive the following 20 years. You see next step is the artificial uterus, quickly followed by the artificial boob. I believe it was Joseph whom uttered the words "seven years of plenty and seven years of famine," although this is the other way around.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For real, doesn't the fact that it was made in a lab mean it's NOT human?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alexborges (313924)

      If it has the DNA, its human.

      Thats the ONLY THING that ENCODES humanity....

      Food for thought, thats all Im saying.

      • by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:44PM (#28626327)

        It actually turns out that's not true -- if you had nothing but the DNA sequence, you could not (even in theory) construct a human from it. For one, the mitochondria organelles have their own genetics independent of our own. The organelles are inherited directly from the mother's cells. For another, how DNA is used and rendered into proteins, etc. is altered by chemicals that are carried along with the cell. If those are stripped away, information is lost.

        • by mangu (126918)

          For another, how DNA is used and rendered into proteins, etc. is altered by chemicals that are carried along with the cell. If those are stripped away, information is lost.

          Not true. The way DNA is encoded into aminoacids is a universal code [rcn.com] which follows the same standards in animal, plant, or microorganism cells, with very few exceptions.

      • To what degree of variation? How many pairs have to change before the genetic program is *not* human? Where would Neanderthals fit in? Or chimps? Or something in-between like my cousin Harry?

        .
        Inquiring minds want to know!

    • by julesh (229690)

      doesn't the fact that it was made in a lab mean it's NOT human?

      No. Not unless you want to start claiming that all the people born because of IVF aren't human, which strikes me as a rather bizarre proposition.

  • by al0ha (1262684)
    Once we can produce eggs in the lab, we are one step closer to a "Matrix" type reality for the future of humanity.
    • by Manfre (631065) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:36PM (#28626195) Homepage Journal

      One step closer to not having hormonally imbalanced pregnant women...

      My wife and I really wish the human reproductive cycle involved external incubation. I'd create a device to post to twitter whenever the baby kicks.
       

      • by migla (1099771)

        One step closer to not having hormonally imbalanced pregnant women...

        Eh... One step closer to not having men, more like.

        (I only read the headline. I apologize if this is an erroneous comment)

      • My wife and I really wish the human reproductive cycle involved external incubation. I'd create a device to post to twitter whenever the baby kicks.

        You could call them Baby Growbags [wikipedia.org]!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        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

    • Embryo space colonization - just send a lab. [wikipedia.org]
      No humans need to make the trip.
      Not so great for the human civilization, but various religious and minority ideological groups will love it. [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If sperm could easily be reproduced, I'm SURE the average Slashdotter's sex life will plummet.

  • Where's the story? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bugg (65930) * on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:24PM (#28625969) Homepage
    Where's the BBC story that's mentioned? I think the editors left a link out.
  • They're also working to develop a process that allows the transformation of gold into lead.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mtempsch (524313)

      They're also working to develop a process that allows the transformation of gold into lead.

      They're late - the economists already have that process perfected.

    • Oh I can already do that. Just send me a few bars of gold, I'll transform them into lead and send them back to you. Postage is on you.
  • Mandatory... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:25PM (#28625995)

    I for one, welcome our female overlords. I hope they find me useful and will not use me for food.

  • Misread (Score:5, Funny)

    by StDoodle (1041630) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:27PM (#28626023)
    Is it any surprise that, with such an article, I had to do a double-take to properly read "...inferior levels of maturation."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Human sperm has been produced in laboratories ever since they got Internet connection and you could download porn to your lab PC.

    Oh, they mean artificial sperm. Nevermind then

  • by BCW2 (168187)
    Add this to the turkey baster and women will have even less use for us men!
    • by Hatta (162192) *

      As long as they don't invent a device that opens jars, we're safe. What? [about.com] NNNOOOoooo!!!

    • by Duradin (1261418)

      Until women find a better way to quickly get real estate and lifetime income for the small cost of a divorce lawyer they'll still want men around.

      Hmm, I wonder what will happen when a woman divorces a woman. How would the judge figure out which one to give the house, car, and alimony to?

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      My first thought on this was that this would be Valerie Solanas' dream [sbc.edu] come true.

  • 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?

    • Re:Sperm Shortage? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by f8l_0e (775982) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:35PM (#28626175)
      Consider a man a wife. The husband is infertile for reasons other than motility. They could now have a child with sperm produced from his stem cells.
    • by 8127972 (73495)

      Here's one reason. According to this article [bbc.co.uk], 85% of sperm is damaged which leads to all sorts of "bad" things. So IMHO, something like this can perhaps help to fix damaged sperm or better understand why it is damaged.

      • by bugi (8479)

        I must be more careful to make sure all of my sperm is fresh. Perhaps there's some way I could extract the old sperm for disposal. Hmm, this will require some thinking.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by powerlord (28156)

      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 Tenek (738297) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:30PM (#28626081)
    Finally, this will address the critical shortage of sperm we face today.
  • What's unethical about this?

    • by kalirion (728907)

      The use of that sperm for procreation would be unethical (human cloning).

      • by blueg3 (192743)

        It's not cloning, because it's a haploid cell. Cloning requires that an embryo be formed from a diploid.

        In other words, in a clone, the clone is a genetic duplicate of the parent. In this procedure, a cell is induced into meiosis, which creates two half-sets of DNA. This is combined with a half-set of DNA in an egg, just like in non-lab sexual reproduction. With the genetic juggling that goes on during meiosis, it wouldn't even be cloning if the sperm and egg were from the same individual. (I guess that wou

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Defakto (813358)

      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.

    • by Speare (84249)

      "What's unethical about this?"

      A fair question, but the answer is obvious. The scientists think the product is perfect, but what if it's not? At this stage of our understanding in the process, you can't ethically ask some woman to bear a potentially deformed or unviable fetus. We have no idea how it would go. Even if it were to survive the gestation, we may only discover after a year or two that the child has some debilitating problem: now we've created a human being from scratch who must die prematurel

      • Not to mention that we've decided it's worth experimenting, essentially, on human babies. Not even on human embryos or human fetuses or whatever, now we are talking about human kids. Outside the womb. This really does seem like a downhill slope. I'm against abortion in the first place, but to "grow" a human to see how it turns out?

        There are organizations with vehement supporters for "ethical treating of animals" and "no animal testing" and yet we are willing to start testing, uh, human farming... or som

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Altus (1034)

        Of course regular parents take this chance every time the conceive a child.

        I'm not sure I see the ethical dilemma in using this technology to allow a couple with fertility problems to reproduce. Sure, in this case you don't know what the odds are, and its possible something will go wrong that couldn't go wrong normally. But everyone who has a child takes the chance that the child might be deformed or sick or die shortly after birth. Its part of the human condition.

    • by julesh (229690)

      What's unethical about this?

      Not saying I believe any of these to be valid, but these are the concerns people are likely to have:

      1. "Playing god."

      There is a major taboo with messing with our reproductive systems, and every time any major advance in reproductive science occurs, there are religious arguments against it. Compare it with IVF and birth control, both of which attracted a lot of attention from a number of religions and are considered unethical by many.

      2. The technique enables a major change in the

      • 4. You may end up with a "human" that is somehow not "human" due to strange things going on with the sperm that wasn't "naturally" produced and the egg from wherever. So now you have, in your mind, "produced" or "manufactured" an "inferior" human. Is "it" worth keeping?

        If no, and killing "it" is allowed, then we've just legalized killing human beings because someone else deemed them not worth keeping around.

        That is a pretty dangerous path to go down without some serious thought.

        People get majorly upset wi

    • Well, at the moment, they're creating this "sperm" by killing existing viable embryos.
  • RTFM (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The sperm meet the 4 basic descriptions for sperm: have 23 chromosomes, have head and tail, have egg-activating proteins, and swim. They are not exact copies of sperm, and, more importantly, only sperm made from male cells actually matured; those from female cells didn't.
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1909164,00.html [time.com]
    Post AC because I'm in a grouchy mood and commenting on something I usually don't comment on.

  • by Anonymusing (1450747) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:38PM (#28626229)

    "the procedure is ethically questionable and that the gametes produced are of inferior levels of maturation"

    So... they're suitable for producing politicians, lawyers, and bad Slashdot comments?

  • by RelliK (4466) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:43PM (#28626291)

    Every sperm is sacred.

  • the human female can get rid of the strutting, violent, undependable worthless parasite known as the human male and replace him with a dildo and some stem cells

    oh wait, shit, i'm a male

    feminist science made me extinct!

  • A future break-up email? Or perhaps, mind mail?

    "We are all engineered beings .. I'm sorry that your makeup shows that you have a high risk for heart attacks, .. so you are not for me. The lab made the miistake, its not your fault and don't blame god especially Pfizer or you'll vanish like the rest. But, my kids must be adequate for space careers, so I simply can not date you now, in grade 3. When I cease fertility, we can reconsider!"

  • 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!!!!

    • by Steve001 (955086)

      MarkvW wrote:

      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!!!!

      This could be a serious legal problem for men in the future. I'm not a lawyer, but based on what I've read the general guide is that if male reproduct

  • "Cool! We don't need you guys anymore."

  • One implication (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @03:05PM (#28626707)

    Interestingly, this opens the door to biological children from homosexuals couple. Sure it's been foreseen for a long time, still big big can of worm.

    • Re:One implication (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thesandtiger (819476) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:27PM (#28627855)

      How is it any more a "big can of worm" than infertile hetero couples having children? Are you suggesting that there is some kind of ethical or moral problem with homosexuals having children with this tech that would not apply to heterosexual couples?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Palshife (60519)

        Besides the obvious? Homosexual couples can't currently conceive children. This could grant that ability. That's pretty huge.

        • 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?

  • Not that we necessarily were, according to some...

    If this procedure became easy/commonplace, it would greatly facilitate lesbian genertic reproduction of two women, vs. one woman and a sperm donor. Since the stem cell used to create sperm would be XX, all resulting children would be female. Interesting to think of a slight but perceptible shift to a significant female majority world population (or population in developed countries).

    Possible consequences: less war; economic trouble for the TV and gaming indu

  • by McGregorMortis (536146) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @03:26PM (#28627049)

    This will revolutionize the Japanese Adult Video industry! They won't need to hire 50 guys to make a bukkake video.

  • One upped (Score:5, Funny)

    by psychicninja (1150351) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @03:28PM (#28627073)
    Man, this kind of beats the story I was just about to submit:

    Human Sperm Produced In The Lavatory

  • There goes my second job.

  • 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:Moral issues? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted AT slashdot DOT org> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @08:41PM (#28630671)

      Well, actually "natural" means "millions if not billions of years of testing in the field, resulting in an unbeatable guaranteed fitness". Of course you could have luck and come up with something better. But it is highly unlikely. And you most likely would forget all kinds of little cycles in nature that are needed to keep things working in the long term.

      Wait for the second, third or fourth generation showing all kinds of problems, up to being unable to create the next generation at all.

      It's way more complicated than you can imagine. We got the tools, but we do not have the brains to use them properly. That is my standpoint. :)

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