Scientists Grow Sperm from Bone Marrow
Byline: FIONA MACRAE
A TRANSPLANT technique has been devised that could effectively remove men from the process of creating life.
Scientists have grown human sperm cells from bone marrow, it emerged last night.
They say this may lead to groundbreaking treatment for thousands of men, including cancer patients left sterile by chemotherapy.
But the technique provoked an ethical storm and could soon be jettisoned by the Government over concerns about the safety of using artificial sperm.
Critics said the treatment threatened to breach moral boundaries as it would effectively lead to men being made redundant.
The technique, which could be adapted to help female infertility by growing eggs in a lab, would raise the prospect of children being born through entirely artificial means.
If the technology were abused, men could be completely sidelined.
A forthcoming shake-up of Britain's fertility laws could see ministers outlaw the use of labgrown sperm and eggs in IVF treatment - even in research.
The scientists say it would be wrong to ban such a possibly lifealtering treatment before its potential has been established.
Professor Karim Nayernia, of Newcastle University's North-East England Stem Cell Institute, believes his work offers fresh hope to many of Britain's 1.5million infertile men.
It centres around stem cells - blank cells which have the power to turn into other cell types, creating a 'repair kit' for the body.
Removed from the human bone marrow, they were grown in a lab and then coaxed into turning into the cells which produce sperm.
These particular cells did not go on to produce sperm but Prof Nayernia, who carried out the research while at the University of Gottingen in Germany, believes this will soon be possible.
He has already shown that fullyfunctioning sperm can be created in a lab from stem cells drawn from mouse embryos.
The artificial sperm fertilised eggs and seven baby mice were born.
While they suffered health problems and died prematurely, the research published last summer was seen as an important milestone in the race to find a cure for infertility.
The latest research avoids the ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells, by using cells taken from the bone marrow.
Using a patient's own cells also removes the possibility of lab-grown material being rejected by the body.
So far Prof Nayernia, a professor of stem cell biology, has only created spermatagonial stem cells - the cells that produce sperm in the testes - from human bone marrow.
However, adding other cells, called sertoli cells, which nurse and nourish those sperm-producing cells, could overcome this problem. …