Sperm test tubes may have just had their breakthrough moment. French biotech company Kallistem and the French National Centre For Scientific Research (CNRS) have just announced the success of their research on test tube sperm, and their “Artistem” system could potentially provide treatment for adult men suffering from infertility. But is it possible the invention of sperm test tubes can provide for in vitro fertilization of lesbians and single women, thus effectively ending the need for men?
In a related report by the Inquisitr, after a lesbian mother gave birth to a bi-racial baby she sued the sperm bank for their mistake since she wanted a “blonde, blue-eyed baby.”
Six years ago, the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had estimated that it would take “at least five or 10 years” before sperm test tubes could be viable for infertility treatments. It seems like their crystal ball was correct, since here we are in 2015 considering the real possibility.
Philippe Durand, the chief Kallistem researcher, explained that they had patented a method for creating human male sperm using stem cells harvested from infertile men. According to the Associated Press, the “heart of the problem is the interior of the testicle” so they decided to replicate this function in the lab. In order to pull off this complex trick, they “developed a bioreactor using a viscous fluid made partly of substances found in the walls of mushrooms or in crustacean shells to reproduce the conditions within the body.”
In a press release, the CNRS explained the significance of sperm test tubes.
“This breakthrough opens the way for therapeutic avenues that have been eagerly awaited by clinicians for many years,” the CNRS said. “No treatment is currently available to preserve the fertility of young, prepubertal boys undergoing gonadotoxic treatments, such as certain types of chemotherapy. Yet more than 15,000 young cancer patients are affected throughout the world. Nor is there any solution for the 120,000 adult men who suffer from infertility that cannot be treated using existing technologies.”
Now that they have functioning human sperm test tubes, the next step is to test the process using rat sperm in order to create baby rats.
“We must see if the baby rats are normal, whether they are able to reproduce,” Durand said.
But the repercussions of their work goes way beyond infertile men. Back in 2009, a different team of scientists were able to create test tube sperm using stem cells derived from a 5-day-old male embryo. At the time, scientists discussed whether sperm test tubes could mean for the future role of men.
“In theory it would be possible [to dispense with men], but only if you want to produce a population all the same size and shape [because they have the same male genetic origin]. Personally I cannot see human reproduction as purely a biological process,” said Professor Karim Nayernia, scientist at Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute, according to The Independent. “It has human, emotional, psychological, social and ethical aspects, too. We are doing this research to help infertile men, not to replace a reproductive procedure.”
At the same time, the reports noted that “efforts to produce sperm from female stem cells failed. It had been thought the technique might allow lesbian couples to have their own biological children but the researchers say the genes on the Y (male) chromosome are essential to sperm maturation.” So, no, there is no getting rid of males entirely.
In addition, there is the issue of the health of in vitro babies. According to a study conducted several years ago, “[a]bout 47 in 100,000 infants born from IVF developed cognitive deficits, such as low IQ or problems in communicating or socializing with others, compared with 40 in 100,000 among naturally conceived children.
“For IVF there are known risks already, such as birth defects and cancer, and now mental retardation should perhaps be added,” said Sven Sandin of King’s College in London, according to TIME.
Although this study may sound alarming, Dr. Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, said he was not “aware of a case of mental retardation or autism in babies resulting from” using in vitro fertilization. “In general, we tell parents that IVF is safe and to a large degree, babies born from IVF are healthy and grow into healthy adults,” he said.
What do you think about the ethical and safety issues related to human sperm test tubes?
[Image via Mark Brake]