Engineering children

Designer sperm for Super Babies

Designer sperm for super babies

Designer sperm for super babies

A report that foretells Aldous Huxley’s science fiction work Brave New World emerges from the online FASEB Journal.

Genetic materials to prevent disease or insert self-repair genes can be put into designer sperm to create a new world of super humans. In the veterinary study using viral transporters the new genetic material became active in the embryos of the mice. Not only this, the introduced DNA stayed active through at least three generations.

The study holds promise for curing diseases, disorders and perhaps even introducing novel attributes to humans, such as the ability to regenerate their own organs, through genetic medicine.

"Transgenic technology is a most important tool for researching all kinds of disease in humans and animals, and for understanding crucial problems in biology," Anil Chandrashekran, PhD, the researcher and lead author, from the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at The Royal Veterinary College in North Mimms, UK, told media outlets.

Dr Chandrashekran’s team’s vector of choice was lentiviruses, encoded with green fluorescent protein (GFP). After introducing of the sperm, GFP expression was detected in a wide range of the tissues of the embryos including testis; the transgenes made it to at least the third generation.

"Using modified sperm to insert genetic material has the potential to be a major breakthrough not only in future research, but also in human medicine," Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said. "It facilitates the development of transgenic animal models, and may lead to therapeutic benefits for people as well. For years we have chased effective gene therapies and have hit numerous speed bumps and dead ends. If we are able to alter sperm to improve the health of future generations, it would completely change our notions of 'preventative medicine.'"

Anil Chandrashekran, Rupa Sarkar, Adrian Thrasher, Scott E. Fraser, Nicholas Dibb, Colin Casimir, Robert Winston, and Carol Readhead. Efficient generation of transgenic mice by lentivirus-mediated modification of spermatozoa. FASEB J, December 2, 2013 DOI: 10.1096/fj.13-233999
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