Now, I am admittedly quite ignorant about gene research in general. So if this question is really stupid, please be gentle with me.
Could this research lead to women taking some of their own stem cells and having sperm created from them which can in turn be used to fertilize their own eggs? Could men do the same thing in reverse? I considered that gender might create problems with this, but isn’t it true that human embryos don’t start showing signs of their gender until several months into gestation?
Is this how we’re going to go about cloning humans? What other implications can be expected from this sort of research?
I too am ignorant on this matter, but I’ll try to critically analyze the question based on the information from the articles.
The first article mentions they are researching infertility in men. That would certainly be a huge, money making bio-drug in itself.
As for having a kid by yourself, the articles don’t mention the gender of the mice. Your question assumes that stem cells from a female can produce both sperm and eggs. This assumption may very well be correct, but I don’t think the articles specifically mention it. If a stem cell from a female can only produce an egg, it ain’t happening. Arguably, the concept of having a kid by yourself also flies in the face of genetic variance and sexual reproduction. Outside of getting to sleep quickly, the whole point of sexual reproduction is to mix things up.
As for further implications, I’m speculating here, but I think you are looking at delivering altered genetic material to newborns. Since the articles mention sperm and eggs, I’m assuming the researchers are interested in helping newborns, not people who are alive at the moment. To speculate further, if they could take the stem cells from a person, alter the stem cells, and then reintroduce the altered stem cells, it would allow someone to counter a genetically transferred medical condition while passing along most of his genetic material as well. Let’s say I have a horrible medical condition that I know I will pass onto my kids. I don’t want to do that. So I adopt or use a sperm donor instead. I have a child, but, genetically, it’s not my kid. If I use those altered stem cells, however, not only can I avoid the medical condition, but it will be my kid as well. That sounds horrible, but, to be brutally honest, I think many people might think that way. This entire speculation falls apart if 1) stem cells don’t contain genetic material that is passed on as sperm, and 2) stem cells can’t be taken from a person and altered. I guess I got two more things to go lookup.
Please keep in mind that I’m critically analyzing your question, not you. Thanks for posting an interesting question.
While the sex organs for either sex develop the same way for the first weeks, until reaching a point where they become decidedly male, or decidedly female, sex is determined at conception.
Women would only be able to produce “female” sperm and thus could only have female children, if the stem cell was taken from a female. Which means men could be obsolete : Women could simply create women from women and not need us fighting wars and watching football.
IANAG (Genetecist (and I apologize for any errors here)), but unless you selected the chromosomes specifically (so that the embryo had the exact same set of chromosomes as the parent, effectively making her a clone), the embryo created from self-fertilization would have a high chance of doubling up on recessive genes (whenever the child has 2 copies of the same chromosome). The chances of negative reinforcement would be much larger than in brother-sister or parent-child inbreeding. OTOH, 2 women creating a child in this fashion would have the same genetic risks as a man and a woman.
As for other implications, obviously this will end the global sperm shortage.