Human sperm creation
In a move redolent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave new world, scientists from Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute claim to have created human sperm from embryonic stem cells for the first time.
The stated aim of their procedure was to help understand better the causes of infertility and thereby ‘develop new ways to help couples suffering infertility, so they can have a child which is genetically their own’.
Already, some scientists have challenged the research. ‘I am unconvinced … that the cells produced by Professor Karim Nayernia’s group from embryonic stem cells can be accurately called “spermatazoa”,’ said Dr Allan Pacey of Sheffield University.
Professor Azim Surani of Cambridge University said, ‘these sperm-like cells made in a dish from embryonic stem cells are a long way from being authentic sperm cells’.
The Newcastle team say there is no intention of directly using the sperm derived in this way in fertilising human eggs – a practice legally prohibited in the UK, anyway.
However, when science is driven by financial reward without reference to biblical values, today’s legal impossibilities and moral nightmares easily become tomorrow’s standard practices.
GP and lecturer in ethics Dr Trevor Stammers has already warned that such technology could be ‘used and abused’ to create children who did not know who their father was.