‘Are you a man or a mouse?’ was given new meaning this week, with the announcement that scientists have created sperm in the laboratory and succeeded in using it to produce healthy offspring. True the ‘babies’ in this instance were mice not men, but the ultimate aim of the experiment is to aid fertility in humans.
Researchers at Kyoto University took embryonic stem cells from the mice and by adding growth factors, created ‘primordial germ cells’. These cells were then inserted into the testes of infertile mice – I wonder where they got them from – infertile mice must be as rare as rocking horse shit, given the rodents’ prodigious ability to reproduce themselves!
The techniques used in this research would have to be modified somewhat if they are to be used in humans, as men don’t have embryonic stem cells which could be used to generate sperm in the same way. However, scientists are said to be working on a method which involves reprogramming adult cells so that they become embryonic cells.
This experiment and others like it, could eventually lead to a man’s role in the reproductive process becoming redundant. The sperm count has been dropping for years anyway, and along with it, the male’s traditional role in society. Some scientists believe that it will eventually be possible to create sperm from female stem cells, thus eliminating the need for men altogether.
I explore this last scenario in my debut novel Back Dated. Following a visit from a strange young woman, Sci-fi writer Ray Flaxman is pitched headlong into a dystopian future, where women rule the new Britannia and men are facing extinction. Feminists often claim that the world would be a better place if women were running things but I wonder . . .
In 1971, the then Education Secretary and mother, Margaret Thatcher abolished school milk, leaving many children without their daily pinta. Later, as Prime Minister she became known as the Iron Lady. It was often said of her that she was more of a man than any of the men in her cabinet. Under her premiership we saw the rise of the politics of greed and the me,me,me society which is with us still today.