General Article New ethical challenges in stem cell research

Topic Selected: Cloning and Stem Cells
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Deriving sex cells (sperm and eggs) from human embryonic stem cells
Some research groups claim to have made human sperm cells from embryonic or bone marrow stem cells. Many would welcome this, if it gave us a better understanding of what sometimes goes wrong in male fertility. It will not be clear for some time if it could work well enough to enable an infertile man to produce sperm, but what ethical issues would it raise? If a man wanted sperm derived from his own body cells, using stem cells from spare IVF embryos would be no use. He would need a cloned embryo of himself created, say, from some of his skin cells, to make the stem cells and thus the sperm. But should the man produce one or more embryos that are ‘twins’ of himself, which must then be destroyed to ‘create’ his own sperm, hopefully to have a child that is biologically his and his partner’s (using IVF)? Is there a contradiction if he creates and sacrifices a cloned embryo to create an ‘ordinary’ one? If iPS cells could ...

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