British scientists are ready to turn female bone marrow into sperm, cutting men out of the process of creating life. The breakthrough paves the way for lesbian couples to have children that are biologically their own. Gay men could follow suit by using the technique to make eggs from male bone marrow.
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. Mature sperm capable of fertilising eggs might take three more years.
Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars