July 8, 2009

Scientists: Human sperm developed in lab

British scientists say they have created human sperm in a laboratory, which they said could help men with fertility problems father a child.

Other experts, however, say they aren't convinced the team of scientists from Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute created fully developed sperm, the BBC reported Wednesday.

Within 10 years, the team said, its technique could be used to allow infertile couples to have children, The Daily Telegraph reported.

It could be possible to create sperm from female stem cells, meaning a baby could be conceived without a man, the team said, the Telegraph reported.

The team said it started with stem cell lines derived from human embryos donated following in-vitro fertilization treatment.

The Newcastle team said the cloned sperm were mature, mobile sperm and produced a video to support its research.

This is an important development, as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men -- why it happens and what is causing it, team leader Karim Nayernia said.

This understanding could help us develop new ways to help couples suffering infertility so they can have a child which is genetically their own.

Nayernia stressed the work was in its early stages and required further investigation to decide whether lab-developed sperm would be safe or suitable as a fertility treatment, the Telegraph reported.

Allan Pacey, a sperm biologist at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC he wasn't convinced the sperm were fully developed.

The quality of the images is not of sufficiently high resolution, and I would need more data, Pacey said. They are early sperm, but functional tests would be needed to know exactly what has been achieved.