Sperms Grown from Sperm Stem Cells in a Dish
A team of researchers from Yokohama City University successfully accomplished the task of growing mouse sperms in the laboratory. These sperms were in turn used to produce fertile pups.
The experiment began with the collection of small tissue fragments consisting of sperm stem cells, also known as spermagonia from the testes of mice babies. These cells were then grown to become sperms in the laboratory, in the presence of certain chemicals which recreated the natural environment for their normal growth.
Boys undergoing chemotherapy and infertile men can breathe a sigh of relief now.
The research was conducted in Japan, by a team of researchers headed by a urology professor, Takehiko Ogawa.
They collected biopsies of baby mice testes that had spermagonial stem cells. The baby mice were too young to produce mature sperm. These cells were then suspended on a semi-solid support, allowing them to bathe partially in the liquid and recreating the natural environment (of testes).
The liquid, knockout serum replacement (KSR), is a cocktail of chemicals that promoted the differentiation of spermagonia to mature sperms.
The sperms cultured were then introduced into adult mice and after fertilization the pups born were fertile and mated naturally. These pups are now 14 months old, and function normally according to Ogawa.
A biochemistry professor, Martin Dym of Georgetown University, who was not involved in the study, opines that people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment are almost rendered infertile.
According to him, unlike in men from whom sperms can be collected and frozen before the treatment, pre-pubescent boys do not have this chance. However, cells from their testes can be extracted and could be used in in vitro fertilization in the later stages of life.
He also adds that the testes cells in infertile men can be programmed to produce sperm cells using the technique followed in mice babies.