Genetics Report on Laboratory

Whenever publicised the term ‘genetics’ evokes a plethora of mixed emotions with varying intensity; so much so that the author of any such statements must ensure that the information is delivered in detail with pinpoint precision with a substantial history of evidence. Failure to deliver the necessary criteria may potentially risk a joint peer and public backlash, to which any credible recovery could prove to be problematic.

On July 7th 2009, an article was published in Stem Cells and Development entitled “In Vitro Derivation of Human Sperm from Embryonic Stem Cells” ( The article in question detailed the in vitro development of a functional male gamete, synthesized entirely from embryonic stem cells and ‘encouraged’ to develop using a retinoic acid culture ( Following this the article then appeared in various formats in the tabloid press from July 8th 2009.

The UK based researcher, Professor Karim Neyernia stated he is “convinced they would be capable of fertilising eggs and creating babies” (Daily Mail, 2009). Today, in response to a recently published article, a peer driven think tank convened to consider the credibility of a potential license application with respect to the publication and to additionally consider any potential for a change in current HFE legislation.

External Analysis

The claims of Professor Karim and his Newcastle based research team triggered an immediate response in the press, offering comments of both support and of condemnation of his breakthrough claims. Dr Allan Pacey, senior Andrology lecturer at the University of Sheffield responded, “It is monumental if this has been done. I have read the paper they have published and I just did not think there was enough evidence as of yet to say the cells they have produced in the lab are genuine” ( There are arguments to suggest that the method by which this breakthrough was published directly reflects the validity of those claims, especially in the light of Professor Karim’s claims that many of the larger journals had requested a minimum of “3 years worth of revisions” ( before they would publish his claims; something the Professor considered “unjustified” (

However, Parker C. Graham; the editor-in-chief of Stem Cells and Development formally announced the retraction of the original article through the publications website, with the following statement, “this article has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication, but has yet to undergo copyediting and proof correction. The final published version may differ from this proof”. Although Professor Karim has never denied that far more work is required in the field and that nothing so far is conclusive, it would be prudent to consider that this could have been handled differently and may possibly reflect other aspects of the claims.

The production of synthesized sperm provides an emotive quandary with a depth of far reaching consequences. Among those questions reflecting the ethical integrity of such treatments has been the reported public concern over the potential that one day it may be possible to father a child from beyond the grave; or that in time same sex partners could become natural parents using stem cell fertility treatments.

Questions of this nature pose a strong case for opposition based on religious beliefs, potential psycho-social and socio-economic implications. Again, counter arguments have been suggested; one response posted suggested, “I don’t think religious people should have a say on this matter as Science is the truth of all that we know” ( According to Dr Allen Pacey, designer babies with desirable attributes may become, “The most important social harm likely to result from non-regulation of genetic testing is the facilitation and encouragement of free-market eugenics, driven by aggressive marketing and a variety of social trends” (

The socio-economic implications of such treatments hold the most potential for a greater impact. There are fears in the community that this form of treatment may become elitist, with only the rich having access to it. Others have suggested that we are already globally over populated; would the perfect infertility cure exacerbate the situation even further? Many believe that it is the function and the right of all living organisms to procreate and fertility treatments offer a lending hand to nature. Professor Karim argues, “Male infertility is a growing problem” (Daily Mail, 2009) and the HGC have published details of “an acute shortage of donor sperm diminishing the capacity of the UK’s public and private health sectors to treat infertility, attributed to the removal, in 2005, of entitlement to donor anonymity (

The HFEA have suggested that it fertility clinics need to be more transparent over treatment costs ( Current statistics published by state,” IVF is indeed a growing industry with 1 in 6 couples having fertility problems. The average cost per cycle in the UK is between $7500 (USD) and $10,000 (USD); the total cost for successful treatment up to birth is between $2500 (USD) and $937,500 (USD)” ( If this new treatment were to prove more cost effective than IVF, potentially releasing NHS funds to target other areas, then clearly there would be a case for further development.

Headline such as “On brink of a society without any need for men” (Daily Mail, 2009) has also elicited many powerful views from the public, including, “My concerns with this new breakthrough are if we need it, with populations being so high” (, and “This is truly scary. Whilst I support advances in medicine to find cures for cancer and to reverse paralysis etc., this is totally unnecessary and immoral. This kind of Frankenstein experiment should be stopped” ( that the current HFE code of conduct may be open to misuse in the future are clearly abundant, with the threat of a situation which some fear may result in a ‘point of no return’ through irrevocable genetic meddling.

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