Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Stem Cell Research: The End of Male Infertility ?

The Independent
Hope for millions of men as scientists succeed in creating sperm from stem cells
By Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent
Published: 11 July 2006


"Scientists have taken a major step forward in the understanding and treatment of male infertility after impregnating mice with sperm grown from embryonic stem cells.

In a world first, researchers have shown that sperm generated from stem cells and developed in a laboratory can result in a live birth.

The breakthrough could lead to infertile men undergoing "sperm transplants" resulting in the birth of their own biological child rather than having to use donated samples, which are in short supply.

Experts described the work as an exciting advance and "hugely significant" for the treatment of male infertility. But some pro-life campaigners expressed concern about the use of "artificial sperm" grown from a discarded embryo rather than a man to create a life."


Richard said...

This truly is my Holy Grail. There will no doubt be discussions about ethics and opposition from various quarters, but science will progress in the way that it always does and one day it will simply become the norm.

It's nice to think that there are people out there trying to help us.

DI_Dad said...

I will be interesting to see this science develope. The possibility of this is amazing.

There were some posts on one or more of the yahoo groups (no ours) about any children resulting being not from a dad but from the stem cell which confused me as the stem cell would be from us. And to the folks who say this would be like clonig I state there would still be a union of cells from a dad and cells from a mom so I see no cloning involved.


Richard said...


The problem that the ethics people have is that, in its current form the stem cells would have to be obtained by creating an embryo that was effectively a clone of the father. The technology, at present, relies on embryonic stem cells which, as adults we obviously don't have. I guess it's a similar question as who is the father if a man donates sperm for use by his identical twin brother (although an embryo is not a person in my book).

The embryo would have the father's DNA in it and would then divide separately from the father so, to that extent the cell is not from the father, but we're really splitting hairs here.

Either way, there will always be those that object to using science to cure people's medical problems. At least until they fall ill themselves that is.


Rachel Inbar said...

From what I understood (I may have read a different version of the article) the goal was to learn more about spermatogenesis in order to be able to lab-produce sperm cells from other cells and not with stem cells (which, as mentioned, adults don't have), though it seems that the researchers don't really have a clue as to how to go about that...

Bea said...

Well, to my mind - both these arguments seem to be examples of hastily-put-together spook stories to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt amongst the ignorant.

The tech uses cloning (as Richard has brought me to understand) but it is THERAPEUTIC CLONING as opposed to reproductive cloning. People do oppose this sort of cloning on ethical grounds, but there are also fairly good arguments to support its use. You could say society as a whole believes it's still a grey area.

The trick of trying to confuse people by making out that it's REPRODUCTIVE CLONING (the big bad cloning guy that everyone agrees is just bad) is not only sly, but downright deceptive. Sure, reproduction is involved. But reproductive cloning? Nup.

The other argument about how the children don't have a father as the sperm/spermatogonal cells were grown in vitro rather than in vivo doesn't make any more sense to me than saying IVF children don't have parents (for the same reason).

I'm just waiting for brochures to pop up in fertility clinics everywhere saying, "Bank your child's cord blood now so your son will have better treatment options than you did!* And without relying on therapeutic cloning technology!"

(*Subject to us actually working out how to do it properly.)


DI_Dad said...

Bea - Actually my daughter's umbilical cord blood is being stored. We had told the birthing center where my son was born we wanted this but they did not tell us the procedure to get the materials. For my daughter we knew in advance. A company called ViaCord here in the US. - Eric

Mary C. said...

Has anyone seen the actual journal article in "Developmental Cell"? I haven't but I did find a short piece about it in the Washinton Post.


It says seven mice were born. Six of these survived for any length of time and all were defective, either too large or too small. None lived past 5 months "apparently because they lacked normal controls over gene activity".

I don't quite understand how or why you would use the cells from an infertile adult male to make an embryo to harvest the embryonic stem cells so that you can turn them into sperm so that you can make another embryo.

I suspect they envision eventually using adult stem cells which do exist but they are not as versitile as embryonic stem cells.

Very interesting research but I don't think it's going to be available any time soon. It sounds like there are an awful lot of bugs to work out and that's assuming they get it past the anti stem cell zealots in the first place.

Mary C.