Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fake sperm

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Or, rather, sperm from bone marrow:

Scientists say they have successfully made immature sperm cells from human bone marrow samples.

If these can be grown into fully developed sperm, which the researchers hope to do within five years, they may be useful in fertility treatments.

It's all quite interesting, although, as one biologist put it, "we are still many years away from developing any therapies for infertility using such techniques". As well, "manipulating stem cells to develop into mature sperm could cause permanent genetic changes in the sperm, making the cells unsafe to use in fertility treatments".

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Now, I know what you're thinking: What about sex? Well, reproduction doesn't require sex anymore, and soon it may not even require the male sex at all:

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.

Of course, this would, if even possible, produce only female offspring (XX, not XY -- the male sex would still be required, in some capacity, for suppying the Y). Still, "[t]he latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer".

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I'm hardly a Luddite, but one wonders if we're not flying a little too close to the sun for our own good.

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