WEDNESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that
they've grown mouse sperm from testicular tissue in the laboratory,
a development that could advance the field of infertility in human
Although the findings only apply to mice, "this is a small but
important step in understanding how sperm are formed, which may, in
time, lead to us being able to grow human sperm in the laboratory,"
said Dr. Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the
University of Sheffield in England, who is familiar with the study
Sperm production is highly complex, the authors explained in
background information in the study. Sperm previously created in a
laboratory from mammal tissue didn't fulfill its purpose, Pacey
said, noting offspring produced from it soon died.
For this study, published in the March 24 issue of the journal
Nature, researchers took tissue from the testes of baby mice and coaxed it into producing sperm cells. They then inseminated female mice, which had healthy babies.
Moreover, the frozen sperm remained viable for months, the
Physicians caution that the research would need confirmation by
other studies in animals and humans before it could become feasible
to grow human sperm in a laboratory. But the potential exists for
the procedure to help some cases of male infertility.
"It will be useful for diagnosis and treatment of infertility in future, for sure," said study co-author Dr. Takehiko Ogawa, a urologist at Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan.
And the sperm-growing procedure shouldn't be expensive, Ogawa
Boys with childhood cancer are one potential treatment group
because chemotherapy treatments can cause infertility. Before
undergoing chemo, it's conceivable that young men can have their
sperm stored for later use. But if the boys are too young to
produce sperm, the laboratory technique may hold some promise.
"Years later, grown sperm in the laboratory could allow them to have children that were genetically theirs," Pacey said. However, legal issues may arise regarding obtaining testicular tissue from kids who aren't old enough to give consent, he added.
Dr. Robert D. Oates, professor of urology at Boston University
School of Medicine, said: "We're doing such a great job of curing
people that we need to think about the other long-term issues, of
which fertility is one. It's nice that they can have a full
adulthood like the rest of us do and are able to have kids."
As for infertile men, eventually it may be possible to take
their tissue and grow sperm outside their bodies instead of
searching for rare working sperm through biopsies of their
testicles, said Dr. Ian Cooke, emeritus professor of obstetrics and
gynecology at the University of Sheffield.
But if genetic problems caused their infertility in the first
place, growing sperm outside the body wouldn't make any difference,
For more about
infertility, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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