Wednesday, July 08, 2009

New Scientific Discovery May Lead to Easier Way to Make People

The name Karim Nayernia may not mean anything to you today, but in a few years, you may know him as the father of the new test tube baby.

Nayernia is the British professor that led a team of stem cell researchers which were able to take embryonic stem cells and turn them into sperm-like cells. The research project, which is still in the early stages of development, involved scientists from England’s Newcastle University and the North East England Stem Cell Institute.

Although experts, including Nayernia and his research team agree the cells created are not normal sperm cells as produced by the human male -- that’s why they refer to them as “sperm-like” cells -- however these cells do contain

fetus 10weeksImage by drsuparna via Flickr

all the essential qualities for creating life. They even have the moving tails which the cells use for insemination. Abnormalities noticed in the sperm-like cells include the shape and movement of the cells, but further research and testing is underway to investigate this.

Nayernia said in a statement that the technique they used to convert the stem cells into sperm-like cells could someday help treat infertile couples that want to start a family.

How’d they do it?

Stem cells are immature cells, which scientists have discovered, can be altered to develop into specific cell types. Think of stem cells as computers without any software, the scientists then install the specific software to use the computer (or stem cell) to do whatever they require.

The research team’s technique involves isolating specific stem cells with XY chromosomes, and then growing them in lab created cultures which forces the stem cells to develop as the sperm-like cells. The results of this experiment were recently published in the Stem Cells and Development journal, a medical journal for stem cell researchers.

This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to go to the sperm bank, and order a customized baby off the shelf just yet. But it could down the road, as scientists continue to work on figuring out the human genome, the essential building blocks which makes up human life as we know it.

Research continues into discovering all the elements which makes us who we are – from our physical characteristics such as our body shape, size, color of hair and eyes – to curing diseases before they appear, such as isolating

Histopathogic image of senile plaques seen in ...Image via Wikipedia

genes which cause cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many more. Stem cell research may one day lead to the elimination of one or more, or even all of these diseases from the human race.

Combine the study of our genes with this research on sperm cell creation, and one day you may be able to order your customized child off the Internet. Just allow four to six-weeks for delivery, and another nine or so odd months for gestation.

The controversy surrounding stem cell research is huge – especially with religious groups, as they see it as human beings attempting to “play God,” in the creation of living beings.

But, if stem cell research can eliminate even just one of the thousands of fatal or life debilitating ailments plaguing humankind, it is well worth it.

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