The moment when scientists will be able to create artificial sperm from a skin cell is drawing closer. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have reported in the journal Cell Reports that they grew precursor sperm cells from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from skin cells.
The immediate use for this is treatment of men who became infertile after treatment for cancer. “Sperm can be banked for future artificial insemination procedures, but that does not help some patients, such as pre-pubertal boys,” Dr Charles Easley, the lead author says. “There are procedures to store testicular tissue prior to cancer therapy, but men who didn’t have the opportunity to save tissue are permanently sterile, and so far there are no cures for their sterility”
Creating sperm cells from stem cells has proved far more difficult than creating heart cells or nerve cells. “No one has been able to make human sperm from pluripotent stem cells in the lab, but this research indicates it might be possible,” Dr Easley says. “This model also gives us a unique opportunity to study the molecular signals that govern the process, allowing us to learn much more about how sperm are made. Perhaps one day this will lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating male infertility.”
This development may spark warnings from some quarters about the dangers of making males obsolete if a woman’s skin cell is enough to create a sperm cell. ~ London Telegraph, Aug 29
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