Skin cells from infertile men made into early stage sperm

A Montana State University researcher and her co-researchers are receiving international attention for showing that skin cells from infertile men can be used to create the precursors of sperm – research that holds promise for treating male infertility.

The teams’ work published on May 1 in Cell Reports has been reported on by England’s GuardianTelegraph, and Independent newspapers as well as National Public Radio and many U.S. science news outlets.

The team took skin cells from men who suffer from a genetic disorder, known as azoospermia, which prevents them from producing sperm. Those skin cells were then turned into stem cells, specifically, induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSC. Like other stem cells, iPSC have the ability to become any other type of cell.

The team then implanted the stem cells into the testes of mice where they produced the precursors to sperm. It was the first time such work has ever been done.

The research was carried out at Stanford University, but the paper was written at Montana State University by senior author Renee Reijo Pera, MSU’s new vice president for research. Reijo Pera came to MSU in January from Stanford where she had been director of Stanford University’s Center for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Education and the Center for Reproductive and Stem Cell Biology. She is regarded as one of the world authorities on embryonic stem cells.

The success of the stem cells in forming the precursors to sperm in the mice offer scientists a new way to study the causes of, and possible treatments for, male infertility. The findings hold promise that one day infertile men could have their own cells implanted in their testes as a treatment for infertility. Reijo Pera and the paper’s other authors caution that such a treatment would require much further research before being clinically viable.

“Infertility is remarkably common, affecting 10 to 15 percent of couples,” Reijo Pera said. “And the genetic causes of infertility are surprisingly prevalent among men. So progress in this area could potentially help thousands, if not millions, of couples around the world.”

Another implication of the paper is the possibility of using cells from endangered species to help boost their reproduction.

Contributing to the paper with Reijo Pera were Cyril Ramathal, lead author, Jens Durruthy-Durruthy and Joy Arakaki with the Institute for Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine, Departments of Genetics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University; Meena Sukhwani and Kyle Orwing of the Magee Women’s Research Institute at the University of Pittsburgh; and Paul Turek, of the Turek Clinic in San Francisco.

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35 thoughts on “Skin cells from infertile men made into early stage sperm”

  1. Really wow what an amazing discovery, but just imagine your DNA, genes, child to be, transferred to a mouse, all in the name of survival. Scientific research or new intervention. No thanks! I do not agree with the above article at all cost. As for myself , I’ll better adopt than see my reflections be in a mouse version. Imagine a kid with two large front teeth, large ears and a tail and hairy, displayed in an exhibition, “As you can see there is no long any infertile man”.
    By the look of things the stem cell is feed by the mouse testes blood, nutrients, chemical and fluid exchanges ,metabolism etc. just like the other sperms cells inside the mouse tests, which means it can adapt and adopt some of the features and characteristics behavior,physical appearance of a mouse.

  2. Really wow what an amazing discovery, but just imagine your DNA , genes , child to be , transferred to a mouse,all in the name of survival.scientific research or new intervention.
    No thanks! I’ll better adopt than see my reflections be in a mouse version.
    Imagine a kid with two large front teeth,large ears and a tail and hairy ,displayed in an exhibition ,”as you see there is no long any infertile man”.

    By the look of things the stem cell is feed by the mouse testes blood,nutrients,chemical exchanges ,metabolism etc. just like the other sperms cells inside the mouse tests, which means it can adapt and adopt some of the features and characteristics behavior,physical appearance of a mouse.

  3. What health problems could the whole process of implanting stem cells in men’s testes have on them? Will it be possible to carry the procedure successfully without worrying about the long term effects that could afect the males? I wonder how much money it would cost to do this. Do you think the gene that causes infertility canjot be altered ? I mean with the advanced scientific research and lab equipment it could be possible. We are looking forward to seeing the results of the new discovery.

  4. This is truly an incredible discovery and this new research could have a profound impact on science as well as on the lives of the thousands of infertile couples. Everyone yearns to have their own biological children so for childless couples this research is nothing short of a miracle. Even though the research being done is in its early stages, it has the possibility to open many other doors. For example, perhaps the same can be done for female egg cells which could lead to a cure for female infertility? This research could also be useful when it comes to saving endangered animals and boosting their population numbers- particularly applicable with regards to South Africa’s Rhino population. However, even though this research is hugely beneficial there is still large controversy regarding stem cell research. Is it ethically correct? There is also unanswered questions about the negative effects of this research. Could the children being born in this way possibly have genetic defects?

  5. Clearly alot of research are still to be done. Research on mice is not enough. Our DNA is very similar to mice, but not 100%.

    If this is possible, wow it would be great. Science can truly better ones life. It can even help a couple have a child.

    If one looks at the situation from a love point view and not from a scientific point of view; having a child cannot solve problems! If you could not except your person for who they are, infertile or not, then what makes you think it will be possible to except them when another problem comes your way.

    So if one wants to bring science and humanity together there are steps to be followed. Say this works and they can help a infertile man. Before they do the experiment on him and help him, it will be important for a psycologist asks him and his parter excactly why they want to do this.

    Everything hapens for a reason in life. There is a reason why certain people are infertile and a reason why science is able to help those people

  6. This seems very promising indeed. Infertility has become a threat in many countries and many divorces now a days are because of the incapability to make a child. This will help fight such problems. However i have some questions in this regard:
    Is it possible that you make even more in depth research to find what species ca benefit from this?
    Because if they can they would help many endangered species.
    What about females? can this possibly create an opportunity to create female eggs as well? It is also a huge problem now a days.
    My last question would be the success rate? What average can you deduce about the success rate of such treatment?
    Thank you

  7. This is an incredible finding made by the Montana State University. The possibility could exists to sovle the problem of endangered species. If male infertility could be overcome in the mice, this coud be applied to improve fertility in a variety of endagered species. Thus holding the potential of a greater number of offspring, ensuring the survival of the species. However as mentioned in the article such findings would aquire more research to determine factors such as the fertility of the offspring, adaptations, abnormalities and mutations.

  8. This article is a source of one of the many great discoveries in the science field, as relationships will no longer be destroyed by the cause of infertility. However, there are always two sides to a coin. Yes, I am proud of this new discovery, but what are the negative aspects to this discovery that has been made?

  9. The research presented here may give hope to the many couples out there who hope to start a family but can not due to the male being infertile. According to Mayo clinic ( percent of men are infertile. Most if not all couples at some point in their relationship will want to have their own children, some couples may choose to adopt when they cannot conceive, but in some cases adoption is not what people desire. Sometimes people just want a baby of their own, which they created together. An adopted child maybe a reminder of the failed conception of their own child due to infertility. The research presented here gives hope to the couples who have been infected by infertility.

  10. Often when a couple falls in love, they get married and after a while want to start a family.When the husband or wife’s infertility is discovered, it puts strain on the relationship, but often couples seek alternatives to still be able to have a biological family. In some cases the infertility cannot be cured and the couple has to deal with the fact that they will not be able to have a child of their own. The strain that is caused by this influences the relationship in such a way that the couple often starts to fight, and after months or years of strain the marriage ends in a divorce. According to Malan Lourens Viljoen inc., 20 980 divorces from civil marriages were processed in South Africa in 2011. ( Finding a cure for men’s infertility can possibly cause a dip in the rapidly increasing divorce numbers in our country.

  11. Wow!!! Wouldn’t this be the discovery of a lifetime for our fast fading Rhino population!!!

    The controversy around the research and use of stem cells has been the cause of so many heated conversations and the morality of this part of science has been attacked by many religious and political groups.

    But just imagine the joy this could bring to hundreds of childless parents. I have been a witness to the heartache and emptiness the yearning of an own child can cause. This would give a lot of people the opportunity to fulfil their dreams of holding a new born baby in their arms.

    This is the reason why I truly hope that the research will be successfully completed and that the technology will be available to us normal people sooner than later.

    All we need now is for the same breakthrough to be made with the infertility problems of woman and a few hundred baby rhinos running around.

  12. I find it quite hard to believe that there is any truly significant proof for the ideas stated in this article. First of all, they only looked at around 2200 marriages, which is almost nothing if you look at it on a large scale. Secondly the cultural and ethical backgrounds of the couples have to be brought into the equation, as some country have a higher divorce rate than others. you also need to look at the quality of the specific marriages before one partner became ill. If they were already having problems beforehand, they could possibly already have been heading towards divorce. I believe that if you add in all these different dynamics and variables, you will probably find that there would always have been around a thirty percent chance of divorce, irrelevant of the gender of the person that became ill. Therefore I do not agree with the research done in this article. I do believe that it is possible that some couples may get divorced if one becomes ill, but I think it has more to do with the character of the people in the relationship, and less with who becomes ill.

  13. There has always been a lot of ethical issues around stem cells.The research conducted shed new to light and eventually changes the gravity of the situation.If skin cells can be manipulated to transform into sperm cells then this is truly a remarkable discovery.It goes to show that at times,following ethics doesn’t really help us much as scientists.Such researches are the ones which make people value science

  14. This is a wonderful discovery, it goes to show that science is indeed the answer to most questions. The fact that the skin cells changed to sperm cells when they were placed in the rat means indirectly that there is hope that male infertility can somehow be conquered.

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