16 December 2008

A Curious Deconstruction of the Human Embryo

Deep in the bowels of Stanford University's embryonic research labs, human embryos are being deconstructed to create: human sperm and eggs! Researchers believe that by working backwards -- from the embryo to the germ cells, they can provide solutions to the problem of infertility for a growing number of women who wait until their 30s or later to have children.
Q. HOW FAR HAVE YOU GOTTEN IN THIS QUEST?

A. We’re about halfway there, though I’m not sure if we’ve completed the easy or hard half. In a dish, we’ve gotten stem cells to make meiotic germ cells, the cells that give rise to eggs and sperm. What we haven’t been able to do yet is to figure out which supplements should be fed to the cells to get them to become germ cells capable of making embryos. Optimistically, we are three to five years from being able to do that.

Q. IN SPEECHES, YOU SAY THAT STEM CELL RESEARCH SHOULD BE THOUGHT OF AS A WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUE. WHY?

A. Because in my lab, we’re using stem cell research to look for ways to make fertility treatments safer and more rational.

Considering all the heartbreak and expense of infertility treatments, this sort of research is something I believe women have a big stake in defending. _NYT _ via _ Instapundit
There are many reasons to study embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Other scientists are attempting to use ESCs to cure Parkinson's Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Some are using ESCs to try to cure heart failure, paralysis, stroke damage, and other fatal and disabling medical problems of all ages.

Infertility is a growing problem among populations of modern nations, where women have many alternative choices besides marrying young and raising large broods of children. Large numbers of women get sidetracked by careers and other non-familial concerns, so that by the time their minds begin to focus on a family, their bodies have gotten tired of cycling their eggs and uterus for nothing. This can lead to extended, expensive and often futile attempts to conceive artificially. The heartbreak of middle age female infertility. Not the greatest tear-jerker, as far as global problems go, but serious enough for the individuals involved.

In terms of longer-term demographic change leading to huge global social changes, western infertility is quite serious indeed. Whether the Stanford research into reverse creation of germ cells will contribute meaningfully toward supporting the underlying western ideas of enlightenment which made Stanford and other great universities of higher learning possible in the first place, remains to be seen.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

I understand that we will soon be able to breed humans whose organs lack immunogenic antigens so that they can provide a source of transplants for veterinary medicine.

Tuesday, 16 December, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Indeed, Baron? I must confess that I have not heard of that particular scheme. Must have originated from PETA.

Tuesday, 16 December, 2008  

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