NewsFri Feb 1, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST
Men No Longer Needed?: Scientists Use Female Adult Stem Cells to Create “Female Sperm”
By John Jalsevac
U.K., February 1, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - "‘Female sperm’, ‘male eggs’ and ‘same-sex reproduction’ - whether these terms fill you with hope or disgust, a reproductive revolution is already in progress," begins a recent New Scientist report on some of the most bizarre and disturbing scientific research being conducted by stem cell scientists.
"In a handful of labs across the world, biologists are trying to make genetically male cells develop into eggs, and female cells into sperm. If successful, their efforts might one day allow lesbian and gay couples to have children that are genetically their own," the report continues.
Scientists at Newcastle upon Tyne University in the U.K. claim to have already used adult stem cells to create primitive sperm, reports New Scientist. Karim Nayernia, a stem-cell biologist at Newcastle, made adult stem cells derived from male bone marrow develop into spermatogonia, and then coaxed the spermatgonia to undergo meisois, thereby becoming mature sperm with sufficient genetic information to impregnate a human egg.
According to the New Scientist report, Nayernia claims to have developed the spermatogonia from female bone marrow as well, but has not yet been able to make the female spermatogonia undergo meiosis.
Theoretically, were Nayernia to be successful in his attempt to create "female sperm", a lesbian couple could give birth to a child that is a composite of both of the partner’s genetic material, with no man having contributed to the process of procreation.
Scientists are also working on developing a human egg from male stem cells. In such a scenario it would be possible that a human egg would be made using skin cells of one of the male partners in a homosexual relationship, which would then be impregnated with the sperm of the other partner. The fertilized embryo would then be implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother.
In Brazil, stem-cell scientist Irina Kerkis claims to have already created sperm and eggs from male mouse embryonic stem cells. "We are starting experiments with human embryonic stem cells," Kerkis told New Scientist.
At the same time, in the U.S., patent analyst Greg Aharonian is attempting to obtain a patent for technologies that would allow scientists to create sperm or eggs, allowing same-sex couples thereby to have their own children.
In his patent application, Aharonian states, "The present invention includes methods for developing sperm containing a female’s chromosomes, or developing eggs containing a male’s chromosomes, and the sperm or eggs so produced."
In the "background to the invention" section of the application, Aharonian claims that this technology could overcome the "only" objection to allowing same-sex couples to "marry" - that is, their present inability to procreate.
"The main, if not only, objective reason for opposing same-sex marriage is that same sex procreation is impossible - two men cannot conceive a child that has genetic material only from both men, and similarly for two women," writes Aharonian.
"But is same sex procreation impossible, so that same-sex couples are forever denied equal protection under marriage laws? Or like brain surgery, face transplants and other ‘unnatural’ medical technologies, are there clinical techniques to achieve same-sex procreation?"
Aharonian told the New Scientist, "I’m a troublemaker."
As with most stem-cell technologies, however, there are safety concerns about the process. Reportedly Nayernia pioneered his "female sperm" techniques first on mice, impregnating female mouse eggs with sperm derived from female stem cells. The mice that were subsequently born, however, suffered severe health problems.
One other problem with creating "female sperm" is that such sperm would always lack the Y chromosome necessary to conceive a male child. Hence the process could only ever produce a female child.
There are also still a host of technological problems to be solved, which has lead some scientists to conclude that useable "female sperm" and "male eggs" are still a long ways off. "I think it will take far more than 10 years," said Robin Lovell-Bade of the London-based National Institute for Medical Research.