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Stem Cell Sperm May Target Infertility

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists have a found a way to make human sperm from embryonic stem cells. The discovery will lead to a better understanding of infertility in men.

Researchers at Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) developed the technique that allows manufacture of human sperm in the laboratory. Professor Karim Nayernia led the study. He says the findings could lead to new ways to allow infertile couples to have children that are genetically their own.

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According to Dr Nayernia, "This is an important development as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men – why it happens and what is causing it”. For example, making sperm from embryonic stem cells could lead to better understanding and solutions to prevent or reverse infertility that occurs in young men who receive chemotherapy drugs used for leukemia treatment.

The researchers also hope to learn more about genetic diseases that cause male infertility now that they can make human sperm in the laboratory. The team used a technique that allowed sperm cells to grow in a lab medium containing Vitamin A.

The researchers explain that making sperm from embryonic stem cells is not something that would be used as a fertility treatment. The study authors say, "While we can understand that some people may have concerns, this does not mean that humans can be produced 'in a dish' and we have no intention of doing this”. Studying how sperm matures in a laboratory, using embryonic stem cells to produce sperm will help researchers understand what leads to infertility, hopefully leading to better treatment options for couples.

Newcastle University