The First Official Lab Created Sperm
Before there was an embryo, there were an egg and a sperm, collectively called gametes. And before the gametes, there were germ cells. The pathway from germ cells to gametes to embryo is long and complicated and occurs only in the human reproductive organs. Or at least it used to.
There have been previous similar claims of artificially creating gametes in the lab. Some claims had some degree of credibility. Some were simply hoaxes.
If you remember, just a few months ago, British researchers from the University of Newcastle claimed they did it first. However, their report published in the journal Stem Cells Development was later retracted due to plagiarism claims so that their claim to be “first” is currently still unsubstantiated.
Well, the latest claim to achieve this feat is coming from no less than researchers of Stanford, an educational institution of impeccable reputation. And the fact that the results have been published in no other than the highly esteemed science journal Nature tells us – this is really it.
The Stanford researchers developed a technique to isolate germ cells from embryonic stem cells. However, they went further and induced the germ cells to give up half of their chromosomes in the process called meiosis. Eureka! The first “lab-made” sperms are here. OK, so they were actually only spermatids, i.e. immature sperms.
But hey, can you imagine the controversy this latest development triggered? If sperm (and eventually eggs) can be made in the lab, the next logical step is to use these lab-made gametes in IVF. This is definitely taking the “test tube baby” one step further. Is this the start of the eugenics era?
However, the researchers claim they have different intentions and site the following benefits that may come out of this discovery:
- Learn more about the earliest stages of human development
- Understand inherited diseases better
- Find treatments for infertility
Understandably, there are those are not too happy about such scientific advancements. Those who object would probably base their objections on the following:
- The use of embryonic stem cells.
- The act of playing God, trying to make human beings in the lab.
Some scientists, however, dismiss these objections as groundless and irrelevant. According to a Bioethics professor:
“It seems to me this is one of those examples where people are groping around for a problem and there literally isn’t one.”
So how do you feel when you hear about such developments? Outraged? Scared? Skeptical? Or fascinated?