Treatments

All That Wiggles Is Not Sperm

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News of lab-created sperm a bit premature /istockphoto.com hide caption

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Researchers from northeast England claim in a study published today to have successfully prodded some human embryonic stem cells into becoming sperm.

The announcement drew a flurry of interest this morning, especially from the British press. But other researchers scrutinizing the study say that what's been created — at least so far — is still a long way from the real deal.

There's no proof these little cells could actually fertilize an egg, and good reason to think they couldn't.

"I am unconvinced from the data presented in this paper that the cells...can be accurately called 'spermatozoa,'" Allan Pacey, an infertility specialist at the University of Sheffield told the Associated Press. Though the lab-produced cells have the right number of chromosomes, and some proteins characteristic of sperm, they don't seem to have the proper shape or movement of authentic sperm, Paley said, and aren't developed enough to be functional.

British law currently bans the creation of embryos with lab-made sperm. But Karim Nayernia, who did the experiments with colleagues at Newcastle University, told the BBC he wasn't interested in fertilizing eggs with the cells. Instead, he said, he hopes his research,

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.

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