Human sperm has been created for the first time by British scientists, in a breakthrough they claim could revolutionise treatment for male infertility.
With some minor changes to the sperm, the technique could be used to allow infertile couples to have children that are genetically their own within 10 years, the scientists, from Northeast England Stem Cell Institute, say. It’s even a possibility that the technique could be used to grow human sperm from female stem cells, which would ultimately mean a woman could have a baby without a man.
“This is amazing and very exciting,” said the lead stem cell biologist, Professor Karim Nayernia. “They have heads, they have tails and they move. The shape is not quite normal nor the movement, but they contain the proteins for egg activation. We hope that eventually this could help create sperm for infertile men.”
However, the breakthrough has caused controversy and some experts argue that without all the necessary biological characteristics the cells don’t constitute “authentic” sperm.
Professor Nayernia has called for a debate on the subject. “You can use all technology in the right or wrong way,” he said. “This should be decided not by scientists but by the law which is not our responsibility.”
Currently, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 states that although it is legal to create sperm in a laboratory it is necessary to hold a license to combine it with an egg to create an embryo. Even then the embryo has to be destroyed within 14 days.
Do you think reproductive medical breakthroughs are a positive for infertile couples or is science breaking ethical boundaries?