Thursday, 7 February 2008

Female sperm: It could be an all-woman planet


February 7, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Imagine an all-woman planet where there are no men. And this is going to
happen, if scientists have their say.
British scientists have already produced what they term, "female sperm", to do away with the role of man in reproduction. If the female sperm works well, women will be able to reproduce children without the help of man. But, all the offspring they produce will be girls. The female sperm will not be able to produce boys since it lack the "Y" or the male sex chromosome.
It will also help lesbian couples to have their children, again all girls. The Earth will then become a planet of women and the male species will become extinct. In case gay men too decide to benefit from the research, they can have their own "eggs" produced from their stem cells and fertilised artificially. They will then be able to produce children without the help of women. But unlike in the case of women, gay men will be able to produce both boys and girls.
City scientists, however, take the research of British scientists with a pinch of
salt. "The British scientists have taken stem cells from a woman's bone marrow and then cultivated them in chemical soup to make them female sperm cells. Stem cells have the capacity to turn into any part of the body. If they use the bone marrow of a woman for sperm production, then the offspring will be girls. If the bone marrow of a man is used, the children can both be boys and girls," says senior geneticist and stem cell researcher Dr MN Khaja.
"It is wrong to say that men may not be required to create babies," points out
Dr Khaja. Stem cell technology can do wonders. "Using the technology, we can argue that women may not be required to produce babies. If female sperm could be produced artificially, male eggs could also be made in laboratory.
The stem cell research should be utilised to improve the health of people and
not to procreate clones with unknown genetic complications." Geneticists express serious concern over artificial production of "female sperm" from the bone marrow of woman. They say it will not only lead to an all-woman Earth upsetting the natural balance, but will also cause a plethora of genetic diseases, which are mostly incurable. There will also be no genetic lineage, since it is the male sperm or the Y chromosome that is responsible for family lineage.
As the British scientists apply for permission to carry out their work to the next stage, Indian infertility experts say it's better to take the male stem cells
to generate sperm for in vitro fertilisation. "We have done pioneering research on production of sperm tissue from stem cells in test tube. The stems cells of an infertile person can be taken and processed to become sperm. The sperm can then be used for artificial fertilisation of the egg of his wife. The child can either be male or female. This way we can maintain the genetic lineage without tampering with the natural laws," argues senior in vitro expert Dr Roya Rozati.
She is also working on developing methods to inject artificially produced sperm into the testes of infertile men, so that they could conceive naturally.
This will eliminate the need for in vitro or test tube fertilisation for couples
with male infertility problems.
The British research on stem cells led by Prof Karim Nayernia centred around mice. According to him, "mature sperm capable of fertilising eggs may take three more years."
The research paves the way for a woman to produce her own sperm through artificial means. She then can use the artificially produced sperm to fertilise the naturally formed eggs in her womb. But city scientists warn that such children will have massive genetic complications. The children born may be abnormal and lead a miserable life.

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