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Scientists Create Sperm from Human Embryos

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer   British scientists are hailing the recent creation of human sperm cells that they believe could revolutionize fertility treatment. However, because they are using embryonic stem cells in the process, they are in essence destroying one life in order to create another. The research, published in the journal Stem Cells and Development, was conducted by scientists at Newcastle and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute. With a few minor alterations, researchers say the sperm could be used to fertilize a human egg and create a new human being. Within 10 years, they say they may have the ability to allow infertile couples to have a baby who is genetically their own. They also believe they could create sperm using female stem cells and ultimately create an unborn child using only genetic material from the mother without a man's involvement. "This is very amazing and very exciting. 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,” Professor Karim Nayernia told the London Telegraph. However, not everyone is convinced about the success of the experiment and concern about the ethical implications is mounting. Azim Surani, a professor of physiology and reproduction at the University of Cambridge told the Associated Press that the sperm produced by the Newcastle team were “a long way from being authentic sperm cells." Dr. David van Gend, national director of Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research, talked with about the problems associated with the research. “The abuse of embryonic humans reached a sinister new low today," he said. “This is an abuse both because of its implications – namely, that scientists can now exploit a dead embryo as a source of sperm – but also because it was entirely unnecessary to use embryos as the source of stem cells. That was an ethically wanton act, to use embryos when an uncontentious and superior alternative was available." Van Gend said the Newcastle researchers are already working on creating sperm from iPS cells, without exploiting embryos and he urged them to move in that direction. “We know that iPS cells, derived from adult cells without ever using eggs or embryos, are the exact functional equivalent of embryonic stem cells," he said. "Anything an embryonic stem cell can do, an iPS can do – with the further advantage that iPS exactly matches the patient." “The abuses of embryonic stem cell science must be ended now that we have, in iPS, a scientifically and ethically superior alternative. I look forward to the Newcastle group’s paper showing the creation of sperm from iPS cells, not embryos,” Dr van Gend concluded. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®