Once we would have called them mad scientists:
Scientists have created human sperm in the laboratory for the first time. The extraordinary development, which until a few years ago belonged in the realms of science fiction, raises hopes that infertile men may one day be able to father their own biological children.
The sperm were created in a test tube, from stem cells derived from a five-day-old male embryo. The advance raises ethical questions over the safety of the procedure and the threat it poses to the future role of men. It was also challenged by experts who claimed the sperm-like cells produced in the experiment were not genuine sperm.
If the finding is confirmed, a single male embryo could, in theory, yield a stem-cell line which when stored could provide an unlimited supply of sperm. Once the stem-cell line was established, there would be no further reproductive need for men. In a briefing on the research, the scientists at Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute, led by Professor Karim Nayernia, raise the question of whether their discovery means "the end of men".
Men! Can't live with them,
can't live without them.
They point out that the stem cells from which the sperm were made could only be derived from a male embryo – one containing a Y (male) chromosome – so at least one male would be required.
At least one male would be required. Take comfort in that, fellas.
"However, researchers believe that the issue does need to be debated and legislated for," they said. "As work progresses and results improve at Newcastle and elsewhere it may, in theory, be possible to develop sperm from embryonic stem cell lines which have been stored."
The mad scientists would prefer that we don't interfere with their delvings into the bizarre and unnatural.
Professor Nayernia said: "In theory it would be possible [to dispense with men], but only if you want to produce a population all the same size and shape [because they have the same male genetic origin]. Personally I cannot see human reproduction as purely a biological process. It has human, emotional, psychological, social and ethical aspects, too. We are doing this research to help infertile men, not to replace a reproductive procedure."
I think he's saying that, speaking as just one mad scientist, mad science probably won't entirely do away with making babies the old-fashioned way.
Call me crazy, but who's to say our society won't want to produce matching people? We're very comfortable with mass-produced, slickly-packaged, identical products. Applying this to humans wouldn't be that much of a stretch, especially in the case of a perceived 'superior' product. It's not difficult to imagine elites opting for the Lexus of manufactured sperm. Eventually, perhaps, the mad scientists could find a way to slightly alter the sperm, just to give it the cache of customization. A special birthmark or something. Yes, a female egg, with its own genetic material, is still necessary for human production, but the mad scientists are working on that problem, too.
Read the rest. Not all mad scientists agree that test-tube sperm are real sperm. And note that the claim at the top, about "rais[ing] hopes that infertile men may one day be able to father their own biological children," appears to be unfounded. Unless I'm missing something, the sperm made in the lab wouldn't come from the male seeking fertility treatment.
Q: How long before we hear about breakthroughs in human/animal reproduction? Science has been entirely stripped of morality.
Cross-posted in the Green Room.
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