Human bone marrow has been used to create early-stage sperm cells for the first time, a scientific step forward that will help researchers understand more about how sperm cells are created. For the experiment, Prof Nayernia and his team took bone marrow from male volunteers and isolated the mesenchymal stem cells. These cells have previously been found to grow into other body tissues such as muscle. They cultured these cells in the laboratory and coaxed them into becoming male reproductive cells, which are scientifically known as 'germ cells'. Genetic markers showed the presence of partly-developed sperm cells called spermatagonial stem cells, which are an early phase of the male germ cell development.
Death of the father: British scientists discover how to turn women's bone marrow into sperm
Sperm made from bone marrow
The breakthrough paves the way for lesbian couples to have children that are biologically their own. Researchers at Newcastle upon Tyne University say their technique will help lead to new treatments for infertility. But critics warn that it sidelines men and raises the prospect of babies being born through entirely artificial means. The research centres around stem cells - the body's 'mother' cells which can turn into any other type of cell. According to New Scientist magazine, the scientists want to take stem cells from a woman donor's bone marrow and transform them into sperm through the use of special chemicals and vitamins. Newcastle professor Karim Nayernia has applied for permission to carry out the work and is ready to start the experiments within two months. The biologist, who pioneered the technique with mice, believes early- stage 'female sperm' could be produced inside two years.
Science is considering taking the concept of single motherhood a step further. Last year, Nayernia had similar success creating artificial sperm from embryonic stem cells in mice. So far, Nayernia and Co.
The breakthrough raises the future possibility of manufacturing sperm that can be used in IVF treatment or to restore fertility to men made sterile by cancer therapy. Such applications are still many years away, but scientists hope to grow fully formed sperm cells in as little as three years. The research, conducted in Germany, is published today in the journal Reproduction: Gamete Biology. A team led by Professor Karim Nayernia, from the University of Gottingen, first took bone marrow from male volunteers. From the samples, they isolated mesenchymal stem cells, which have previously been shown to grow into body tissues such as muscle.