Researchers have turned embryonic stem cells in mice into sperm, making it conceivable that by implanting the sperm into eggs the resulting embryo could develop from the cells of people of the same sex, according to the Telegraph in the UK.

"What we would really like to know is, will these cells … that we formed in the dish, actually sustain the development of an embryo," Dr George Daley, a stem cell biologist, told Reuters.

If the process is normal, "then it opens up possibilities for novel forms of reproductive biology," said Daley who co-authored the study done by the Children's Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Daley is now trying to determine if the procedure would work with human cells.

Though researchers have developed female eggs from stem cells, according to another press release, they have not been capable of being fertilized.

In a statement, Daley said their work may shed light on birth defects. "Germ cells are given the responsibility for perpetuating the species, and understanding how germ-cell formation goes awry may teach us about early developmental defects, as well as some forms of male infertility," he says. "Our research is aimed at understanding normal and pathologic tissue formation, and not so much at futuristic means of assisted reproduction."

Not in Italy

If researchers try to pull that off in Italy, they'd better turn to a married couple. According to a Reuters story in today's Chicago Tribune and elsewhere, "Italy's Senate approved a law on reproductive rights Thursday that bans the use of donor sperm, eggs or surrogate mothers and restricts assisted fertilization to 'stable' heterosexual couples."

The story notes Italy's heavy Roman Catholic influence ...

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