In this 'Brave New World' fact is truly becoming stranger than fiction.
In a first-ever, scientists have announced the creation of artificial human sperms from a source far removed from its origins. Stem cells derived from human bone marrow are now the new 'fathers' of immature sperms, which the scientists hope can eventually be worked upon to benefit infertile men.
AdvertisementThe pioneering scientists from the Universities of Göttingen and Münster and the Medical School of Hannover say they have only the law to fear now.
Says lead researcher Professor Karim Nayernia, now at the North-east England Stem Cell Institute based at the Center for Life, in Newcastle upon Tyne: "We're very excited about this discovery. 'Our next goal is to see if we can get the spermatagonial cells to progress to mature sperm in the laboratory and this should take around three to five years of experiments.'
For those interested in the nitty gritty, here are the details. The scientists isolated the stem cells from bone marrow samples of various male volunteers. These were then induced to develop into spermatagonial cells- usually found in the testes. Though these are immature sperms, incapable of fertilizing eggs, the scientists are hopeful of eventually being able to put them to use.
Experts call the changing of stem cell types pre-muscle to pre-reproductive cells, trans-differentiation.
Yet, experts like Professor Harry Moore of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield are of the opinion that while the finding is of interest, caution about the interpretation of such results is warranted.
Moore adds that nearly all-similar observations of trans-differentiation in adult stem cells had not been confirmed when tested rigorously. Says Moore: 'This is a fast moving field but we are still many years away from developing any therapies for infertility using such techniques.'
Moore also warned that manipulating stem cells to develop into mature sperm could cause permanent genetic changes in the sperm, making the cells unsafe to use in fertility treatments.
Another expert, Dr Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society offers: "This kind of work will be very useful in helping us understand the biology of how sperm are made. 'That in itself may provide some insight into why things sometimes go wrong and may lead to new approaches to treating male infertility.'
The breakthrough findings were presented at an international fertility conference and published in Gamete Biology: Emerging Frontiers on Fertility and Contraceptive Development.