by Dr Alfred Murage
Sex and reproduction, as we know it today, may become a thing of the past. Science is already advanced enough to negate sex as a means of reproduction. And men’s contribution is the easiest to discount, slowly making men irrelevant.
Scientific breakthroughs have resulted in creation of sperms and eggs in the laboratory, using cells called stem cells. Such cells have the potential to develop into diverse specialised cells like nerves, blood cells or even eggs and sperms. Stem cells can be harvested from fertilised eggs — embryos, from the umbilical cord after birth and also from organs like the bone marrow. Once harvested, stem cells can then be externally signalled to develop into either eggs or sperms.
Recent scientific research has created life from skin cells! Following successful creation of sperms from stem cells, scientists from Japan re-programmed skin-like cells into becoming eggs. The eggs were matured, fertilised with sperms, and then implanted into a potential mother. This then resulted into healthy and fertile offspring, who went on to have offspring of their own. But hang on; this was not done in humans, but in mice!
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The ultimate aim of such scientific research is to help infertile couples have children. If the same methods could be used in humans, then cells in skin could be turned into eggs and sperms. Any resulting child would be genetically related to the mother. Such scientific developments take a long time to translate into human use. The understanding of human development is still limited, and there are many ethical hurdles. Many questions remain unanswered about the long-term consequences on the health of any resulting child.
So, how does this translate into making men irrelevant in sex and reproduction? Women are capable of carrying a pregnancy, while men are not. If a woman desires a pregnancy, all she would do is get some skin cells developed into sperms. These could be from a friend or a relative. She would then get the sperms inseminated in her, using the already growing eggs in her own ovaries, or even get some eggs developed from her skin. No need then to have a man around for the sake of conceiving!
So what will be the use of men? Such developments are way off from becoming commonplace in human fertility treatment. The expense and ethics of such treatments will make them only accessible to those with certain fertility problems. Sex will still have a place as the natural way of conception, and is unlikely to be completely replaced any time soon. And sex for pleasure will still make men desirable to their women counterparts, even though artificial sex gadgets already offer stiff competition in that respect as well!
So, the countdown to men’s irrelevance is still way off in the future, but it’s not science fiction either.
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