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Sperm developed from stem cells

8th July 2009

Scientists have claimed a world first in creating human sperm in a laboratory.

sperm

The team from Newcastle University and the North East England Stem Cell Institute hope the breakthrough could help men with fertility problems to father a child.

The findings were published in the journal Stem Cells and Development but the scientists warn it could be another five years before the technique is perfected.

Researchers used stem cell lines derived from human embryos donated following IVF treatment and stored them in tanks of liquid nitrogen before raising them to body temperature and encouraging them to grow.

They then identified and separated "germline" stem cells from which eggs and sperm are developed before the male XY stem cells underwent the process of "meiosis" to halve the number of chromosomes.

The process took four to six weeks after which researchers say the sperm were fully mature and mobile.

Professor Karim Nayernia from the university said: "This is an important development as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men."

While having no intention to produce "human life in a dish", the researchers believe the process will also allow scientists to study how cells involved in reproduction are affected by toxins.

However, sperm biologist Dr Allan Pacey at the University of Sheffield, said he was not convinced the sperm were fully developed while Josephine Quintavalle from Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Corethics) raised ethical issues and described the process as an example of "immoral madness".

 

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