Production of Sperm in a Dish in 72 days

French researchers, earlier this year, claimed that they can create sperm. They have now patented the technique, however the method lacks details.

Researchers at the biotechnology company Kallistem in Lyon, France, claims that, the method coaxes seminiferous tubules, tissue responsible for sperm production in the testes, taken from humans, rats or monkeys to produce mature sperm cells.

A Japanese research team generated mouse sperm cells in the lab in 2011, but the French researchers claim that they are the pioneer to do this in humans. They took 20 years to develop the method, by which they turned the spermatogonia, progenitor cells residing in the seminiferous tubules, into mature sperm cells. Although other labs have managed to push the cells through some of the earlier stages of spermatogenesis, they failed to complete the process. Therefore this is the first method to complete the final steps in making human sperm.

Spermatogonia can be destroyed when a cancer patient undergoes radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Thus the boys, who have not yet reached adolescence, would not be able to have sperm samples, which could be frozen to be used in adulthood. So the researchers froze the tissues obtained from pre-pubescent boys, who were admitted for cancer treatment with the aim to give them the chance to father later in life.

Now the team plans to refine the technique to increase yields of sperm. The method involves suspending bundles of extracted seminiferous tubules in small cylinders of a water gel called chitosan. These are then immersed in a dish containing an artificial media, which is a cocktail of nutrients, vitamins, hormones and growth factors, placed inside a bioreactor with an incubation period of 72 days. The mature spermatozoa are then extracted by the removal of cylinders and dissolution of the gel.

The team hopes to begin clinical trials in 2017. However this depends on getting permission to use lab-made sperm to fertilise a human egg , to ensure it is safe, ethical, secure and acceptable for the patients and regulatory agencies.


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Arunima Maiti

Arunima Maiti

Biomedical scientist with special interest in reproductive biology.

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