His research has led to the first live births of mice from sperm created in the lab. His team has already produced live mice generated from sperm that was grown out of embryonic stem cells. It was a major step forward, but a sperm cell from an embryonic stem cell would still not give an infertile man a biological tie to his child. It wouldn’t be any different than using donor sperm from a sperm bank, which has been done for years. To give a man a biological tie, Engel’s team is now generating sperm from very early germ cells taken from the testicles.
Engel says, “If it works in the mouse, I’m sure it will also work in the human.” Another possibility, says Engel, is to try and generate viable sperm cells using stem cells in bone marrow.
The crazy part – Engel believes that it could be possible to take early germ cells from one woman, turn them into sperm cells, and use those to fertilize the egg of another woman.
Says Engel, “It’s very nice to have a woman and to have a man … but it might be possible in the future, perhaps you are able to get a child from two women.”
Controversy comes with all groundbreaking research, especially when procreation is involved. Ken Goodman, Ph.D., a philosopher from the University of Miami makes this point:
“The point at which you want to use a [lab-grown] sperm cell to actually make a baby — to reproduce a human being as part of an experiment, you hit what I think is a wall. If you are creating a human being as part of the experiment, then by definition, you can’t get consent from that human being. Research that uses stem-cell derived sperm for reproduction is not going to be ethically permissible.”