General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Science is close to making human sperm from human skin cells. How will we ensure that all reproduction is voluntary?

Asked by ibstubro (18804points) May 1st, 2014
21 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

It was a report on NPR today.

A scientist that is an expert in reproductive problems has taken human skin cells, treated them to make them T-cells, and injected them in the reproductive organs of male mice. Rudimentary human sperm were created.

Now, all of that sounds kind of creepy/cool in that she’s making human sperm in mice, but has the potential to end-run around infertility in men.

But wait. Here’s the interesting part.

How do you prevent people from getting access to celebrity cells and selling celebrity sperm in clandestine fertility clinics?

What about the dead? Could a 22yo trophy bride create an heir after the 90 died following 2 years of marriage?

What’s to keep that nut in North Korea from inseminating 100’s, 1,000’s, 10,000’s of women?

If you kept a sliver of your son/husband before he went to war, you could still have his kids/grandkids if he was killed in action. If cells were retained at birth, parents would be guaranteed grandkids, for that matter.

If it uses skin cells, couldn’t lesbians literally reproduce?

Boggles the mind.

Sorry the details are so long, but I think it is a really fascinating topic!

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syz's avatar

Interesting. Of course, similar questions were asked when science showed that it could indeed clone animals…but the fact that it’s skin cells makes the whole process more….worrisome.

If I remember correctly, cloning tends to result in a high rate of errors in gene expression, abnormalities, and in utero death. I wonder if these “created sperm” would be viable and stable.

syz (35799points)“Great Answer” (2points)
ibstubro's avatar

Thanks, @syz. I think cloning’s still a mixed bag.

I wonder if the next step isn’t to try to make mouse sperm in a mouse. That could be inseminated and tested for viability.

Darth_Algar's avatar

In general whenever the media reports on science being “close to….” it’s a good bet that whatever the thing that’s “close” will be at least several decades off, but more likely will never happen at all.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Given that some people think the Y chromosome is in danger of disintegrating altogether, perhaps it’s a good thing that someone is working on this. ~

Look, I tilded.

Coloma's avatar

Oh for fucks IF we need any more reasons to keep reproducing like the rat pack we have become.
The population has grown over 8 million in the last 20…no.

Science is also close to cloning human organs from blood donations.
I donate blood to a research facility, and Tues. donation is going to Rorsch Laboratories in Germany where they are working on cloning blood to make your own, non-rejectable organs.
I say go for it….but we do NOT need more semen on this planet, and, actually, if your organs fail, well, then it IS your “time” right? Not entirely sure how I feel about this, but, I am a science girl more so than not, just don’t think we need to add ONE more hominid to the teeming puddle of humanity.

If my blood can save a 4 yr. old that needs a kidney transplant, well…okay.

ibstubro's avatar

You belong in politics, @Darth_Algar. Let’s stick our head in the sand until the world ends. Do you not realize that discourse on topics of discussion leads to earlier, easier solutions of related topics? Okay, just for you, pretend it’s months away. NOW you can respond on the norm.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@ibstubro Well, he’s right. The media sensationalizes its science reports, just as it does everything else. Look, here’s a how-to guide.

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CWOTUS's avatar

“Keep your hands to yourself” will take on a whole new meaning.

Likewise “Hands off!”, “Hands up!”, “Put your hands where I can see them… you pervert!” and doing things “with one hand tied behind my back” will take on sinister overtones of BDSM.

Straight men will never shake hands again.

And say goodbye to ‘finger foods’.

seekingwolf's avatar

That’s absolutely frightening. Women who trick men into getting them pregnant (lying about birth control, for example) is already a HUGE problem. Imagine the consequences if we were able to do this. If I were a straight man, I would wear gloves all the time when shaking hands with women because you never know.

cazzie's avatar

I agree. With all the horny teen boys I’ve known, human sperm shortage in not a problem that needs solving. Stem cells, on the otherhand is very cool work. Of course, what would be more worthwhile is using this tech to increase genetic diversity in critically endangered species. But humans certainly don’t fall in that category.

ibstubro's avatar

This is T cell research, @cazzie (as I’m sure you know), but the more you think about this application, the more it scares you. Yes, it could be a good application if a man was sterile due to accident or disease, but if he was born sterile, isn’t it likely that he’s carrying some trait that nature wants to prevent replicating?

The problem is that we can experiment all we want on animals without distinct, sentient personalities, but we can’t know what we’ll get until we experiment on actual humans, in quantity. Scarey.

Coloma's avatar

@ibstubro Agreed, animals do not mimic humans, no matter what we are led to believe, period.
I say experiment on criminals. Not a popular idea, and I am not talking cruel and inhumane research, however, for the non-insane, repeat offenders, why the hell shouldn’t they be research subjects? Save the Beagles and Primates, and allow them to promote research.

Make it voluntary. Volunteering for research amends your prison sentence or awards you privileges. I’m not talking taking a blow torch to their skin to study burn treatment, although the Ted Bundys of the world certainly deserve that over an innocent hog. haha

seekingwolf's avatar


No I feel the same way. I even go a step further. I think if someone with an air tight murder conviction is sitting on death row, instead of killing him, he should be used in neurological research. Pain shouldn’t be too horrible but it may happen and I don’t care. Think of the possibilities!

Gotta how we treat our death row murderers much better than our test animals.

ibstubro's avatar

But it’s the babies we have to worry about here, @Coloma. Say we make sperm, impregnate and create some monster. Do we abort and study it like a fecal pig in s HS science lab? Mentally, there’s no way to identify scarey traits until personality begins to form. Then you…euthanize, quarantine, what? Wasn’t this the premise of that TV show about Jerad?

cazzie's avatar

All reproduction now isn’t voluntary, to put no fine point on it. But why can’t we see this for the point I made about increasing genetic bases for endangered species. The other stuff people are talking about like skin cells from celebrities, sounds like bad tabloid newspaper material.

Coloma's avatar

@seekingwolf So true. A bit off topic maybe, but, I saw a video the other day of 6 precious little lab Beagles that were liberated from living in cages for 4 or 5 years. Their 1st steps on real grass in the sunshine, heartbreaking! They all were adopted out to excellent homes.

@ibstubro Of course, I agree, I was just tossing out my 2 cents in relation to research in general. I do not advocate creating life only to torture it and dispose of it. That is pure evil.

cazzie's avatar

@Coloma and that is why there are ethics committees.

Coloma's avatar

@cazzie Right you are. :-)

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