Scientists have developed a new technique for reprogramming cells to produce healthy sperm, offering hope for millions of infertile men.
An estimated one in 660 boys are born with an extra X or Y sex chromosome – a condition known as Klinefelter syndrome. This sometimes leads to speech and reading problems, and can also disrupt the formation of mature sperm, leading to infertility.
In their experiments, scientists from London’s Francis Crick Institute took cells from the ears of mice with the extra sex chromosome and turned them into stem cells – the clay from which all our other cells can be made.
These cells were then injected back into the testes of the mice.
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The scientists found that the stem cells automatically lost their extra chromosome, turning into functioning sperm cells. This allowed the mice to produce normal, healthy offspring.
The research could offer hope for men with fertility problems due to Klinefelter syndrome.
“It would be interesting to see whether the same approach could one day be used as a fertility treatment for men with three sex chromosomes,” said Takayuki Hirota from the Francis Crick Institute, who authored the report.
However, the team stressed the technique was not yet safe and needed much further development before it could be considered as a way of tackling male infertility.
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“In our mouse experiments we have to inject cells that have the potential to become sperm back into the testes to help them finish developing,” said Francis Crick Institute group leader Dr James Turner.
“But we found that this caused tumours in some of the mouse recipients.
“So reducing the risk of tumour formation or discovering a way to produce mature sperm in a test tube will have to be developed before we can even consider this in humans.”
Even if the technique was shown to be safe, it would not be allowed in the UK without a change in the law that bans the use of artificially produced sperm to make babies.
Culled from http://www.mirror.co.uk/