World’s first test tube sperm developed


MotherhoodIf becoming parent has been a challenge for you and your partner, you’re not alone. 10 to 15 % of couples in the United States are infertile.  Fortunately, there are many safe and effective therapies to overcome infertility.  You would be happy to know that medical science has advanced to the level that scientists have created first human sperm in laboratory from human embryonic stem cells.  To nurture sperm cells they used a special cocktail of growth factors, nutrients and retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A. 


The breakthrough certainly brings a ray of hope to infertile couples who are unable to have children.  The research was done at Newcastle University and the North East England Stem Cell Institute.  The study was published in the journal of Stem Cells and Development.


Professor Karim Nayernia, the lead researcher said creating embryos from lab-manufactured sperm is banned by British law therefore they planned to produce sperm in order to study the reasons behind infertility.  In humans, sperm development is a very long process, which takes more than 15 years and is not an accessible system. With the new research, we can now obtain that development in three months and opens opportunities to develop ways for potential fertility treatments.


How is newly developed sperm similar to natural sperm? sperm051104

Nayernia said that in vitro derived (IVD) sperm are not an exact match of naturally occurring sperms.  Nevertheless they have four important similarities to the cells created in the male testes:

1. They have half the number of chromosomes i.e. 23 of other human cells.

2. They possess a head and a tail

3. They contain proteins essential for activating the egg during fertilization

4. They swim, or move as sperm do in search of eggs to fertilize. infertility


How long would it...

take to use IVD sperms by the people?

Scientists are still researching on  IVD sperms to know why some people are infertile and the reasons behind it.  They hoped that within ten years of time the technique could be used by the people.


What is the opinion of other researchers on the development of IVD sperms?

Professor Karim Nayernia and team members insist they have produced ‘fully mature, functional sperm’, whereas other experts cast doubt on their findings.


The MRC Institute of Medical Research said that hough the sperm cells they have created have tails and can swim, but this is not an evidence that the sperm cells will behave like normal cells. 


Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield said that the sperm created by Nayernia do not have the specific shape, movement and function of real sperm.


Azim Surani, a professor of physiology and reproduction at the University of Cambridge said the sperm produced by the Newcastle team are a long way from being authentic sperm cells.


Robin Lovell-Badge, a stem cell expert at the National Institute of Medical Research, appreciated the work despite of the several questions raised by other experts and said that Nayernia and colleagues may have made some progress in obtaining human sperm from embryonic cells.


Though the research is criticized by the experts but there is no doubt that researchers have pushed the scientific boundaries and took a leap in discovering a technology that should be helpful in investigating the reasons of infertility and develop new solutions for the needy couples.


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