Stem cells from testicles24th September 2007
US researchers say the stem cells found in the testicles of human males could offer a 'medical repair kit' to grow healthy tissue and fight major diseases.
Stem cells are conceived as the body's 'master cells', which can, if stimulated correctly, produce many different kinds of tissue.
Experts led by Shahin Rafii of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York found ways to extract stem cells from the testicles of mice, and is now beginning work to find the equivalent stem cells in humans.
Rafii, who collaborated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute on the project, said the team had yet to discover the exact biological switch that would enable them to control how the cells developed.
Nevertheless, the unique specialised spermatogonial cells could be an easily obtained and manipulated source of stem cells with exactly the same capability to form new tissues as is already seen in embryonic stem cells, he said in a statement.
Researchers have found stem cells in blood, bone marrow and other tissue. More primitive versions have been found in the placenta, and in amniotic fluid.
But Rafii said adult stem cells were much more difficult to work with.
A tiny sample of flesh from the testicles should provide enough stem cells to work with, he added, although experts questioned whether men would be willing to undergo the painful procedure in the name of scientific research.
However, there is a possibility of a host of medical benefits, the team found. They have already grown mouse stem cells into blood vessel, heart and muscle cells, so there is a chance the human equivalents could provide a perfectly matched transplant, for himself or even his relatives.
Because the cells, whose normal job it is to produce sperm, carrying on functioning well into advanced age, the cells should be usable in most men, the researchers said.
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