Sperm grown in lab may cure male infertility

Human sperm-making machinery is a bit lazy. How else to explain the fact that 90 percent of the sperm in a man's ejaculate are deformed? Two heads, two tails, huge heads, pinheads, coiled tails - the list of common deformities is a long one. It's the price of monogamy, Dr. Niederberger says. "For those species where more than one male's sperm can find itself in a female at the same time, the sperm are much more uniform in appearance," he says. "In humans, Joe and Sam's sperm don't usually find themselves in Betty at the same time." istockphoto

sperm grown in lab
Researchers may have created the first viable artificial sperm
istockphoto

(CBS) - Who needs a man anyway? Scientists in Japan have successfully grown artificial sperm in a laboratory. This development could lead the way to someday discovering a cure to male infertility.

In an article published in the scientific journal "Nature," researchers at Yokohama City University cultivated tissue from baby mice and, over a period of several weeks, were able to create viable sperm from the tissue.

The researchers used in vitro fertilization to produce twelve mice with the developed sperm. These babies eventually grew and were able to have young of their own, according to the report. This marks the first time that laboratory-produced sperm has led to healthy and long-lived offspring.

Previous attempts at artificial sperm resulted in sickly offspring that quickly died, the article notes.

"This is a small but important step in understanding how sperm are formed, which may, in time, lead to us being able to grow human sperm in the laboratory," Allen Pacey, a professor at England's Sheffield University who is familiar with the study, told the Guardian.

The article notes that this new method of creating artificial sperm could help young boys about to go through cancer therapies that destroy fertility. It could also be used to increase the reproductive potential of endangered species.

It is, as Dr. Pacey said, a small step in the path of creating viable sperm with human applications. As he told the Guardian, "It is clearly important to make sure that any sperm produced are safe and give rise to healthy offspring when used, and that they in turn have healthy offspring. We need to be cautious with this kind of work."

  • Bailey Johnson

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