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The Telegraph reports that for the first time in history scientists, at the Northeast England Stem Cell Institute, have produced human sperm. This involved using stem cells from an embryo.

Professor Karin Nayernia, a leading biologist in charge of the project, was quoted in the Telegraph saying:  “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”

The Guardian explains how important this research is. Professor Nayernia is quoted: “This is an important development as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men- why it happens and what is causing it”.

The sperm is not perfect yet, but it is thought that within ten years time the sperm could be used as a fertility treatment. This technique could be used to potentially produce offspring, which is genetically the same as the parents, according to the Telegraph.

The Guardian reports how Professor Nayernia explains that as well as this, the technique can be used to further explain the effect of toxins on reproductive cells and potentially lead to a solution, “for example why young boys with leukaemia, who undergo chemotherapy can become infertile for life”.

The Mail states that this research and technique could be used to create a miracle pill to help male infertility.

The Telegraph states that this technique could be carried out using female stem cells only. This would enable a woman to produce a child, without the need for a man.

The Mail states that ethics is proving a huge issue in this research. According to the Daily Mail, it could mean that a homosexual couple could produce offspring, artificially, that matches them genetically.

The Guardian explains that this research has attracted a large amount of controversy and criticism over its authenticity. Professor Robin Lovell Badge, of the Medical Research Council Institute of Medical Research, is quoted in the Guardian saying:  “they need much better evidence that such in-vitro derived sperm are normal”.

The Telegraph quotes Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, as saying this project is “totally wrong”. He said: “Science must be totally ethical and totally safe- this is neither”.

The Telegraph explains that the team understand that more research is required to test the safety of the technique and its potential to be a fertility treatment.

According to the Telegraph, the technique was used on mice a few years ago. They successfully produced offspring; however, these died shortly after being produced.

Another hurdle, before this technique can be fully put in place, is the law. The Week explains that following the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, using artificial sperm to produce human offspring is illegal.

The Telegraph reports that Professor Nayernia wants more debate about this before science takes over the law.

 

09/07/09

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