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Breakthrough in infertility as scientists successfully create viable sperm from monkey stem cells

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Male Infertility BREAKTHROUGH: Scientists Successfully Make Viable Sperm From Monkey Stem Cells — And Say It Could Work In Humans Too

  • Sperm is made from monkey stem cells and used to fertilize an egg
  • It’s a scientific breakthrough that could lead to human infertility treatments
  • Stem cells taken from a rhesus monkey and converted into primitive sperm
  • Rhesus macaques share reproductive mechanisms similar to humans










Sperm is made from monkey stem cells and used to fertilize a macaque egg in a scientific breakthrough that could lead to human infertility treatments.

Researchers took some stem cells, converted them into primitive sperm and showed that this was able to fertilize a rhesus monkey egg.

The monkeys share similar reproductive mechanisms to humans, making them an “ideal and necessary model for exploring stem cell-based therapies for male infertility,” according to experts at the University of Georgia (UGA).

It comes five years after scientists were able to create sperm in a lab and use it to conceive healthy baby mice in another groundbreaking move.

The hope is that the research could one day pave the way to help men with deficiencies that prevent them from producing sperm, as well as those whose fertility has been damaged by cancer treatment or infections such as mumps.

Breakthrough: Sperm made from monkey stem cells and used to fertilize a macaque egg in a scientific breakthrough that could lead to human infertility treatments (stock image)

HOW ARE STEM CELLS MADE SPERM?

The scientific breakthrough by experts at the University of Georgia could lead to human infertility treatments.

They managed to make sperm from monkey stem cells in a lab, and used the primitive sperm cells to fertilize a macaque egg.

Making sperm in the testes, which takes over a month from start to finish in most mammals, is one of the longest and most complicated processes in the body.

In the lab, the UGA researchers made functional sperm cells in a dish using primate embryonic stem cells.

These cells can turn into any other type of tissue, but are made into immature sperm cells with the help of chemicals, hormones and testicular tissue.

They also have to go through a careful rearrangement of their DNA during a process called meiosis, in which the sperm cells lose half of their chromosomes so that a fertilized egg has a normal amount.

Researchers used embryonic stem cells from rhesus monkeys to generate immature sperm known as round spermatids, which do not have a head and tail for swimming because they are at an earlier stage in their development.

These spermatids were shown be able to fertilize a rhesus macaque egg.

Making sperm in the testes, which takes over a month from start to finish in most mammals, is one of the longest and most complicated processes in the body.

The UGA-led study is the first to show that functional sperm cells can be made in a dish using primate embryonic stem cells.

These cells can turn into any other type of tissue, but are made into immature sperm cells with the help of chemicals, hormones and testicular tissue.

They also have to go through a careful rearrangement of their DNA during a process called meiosis, in which the sperm cells lose half of their chromosomes so that a fertilized egg has a normal amount.

“This is a major breakthrough toward producing stem cell-based therapies to treat male infertility in cases where the men do not produce viable sperm cells,” said lead researcher Charles Easley, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Public Health.

Researchers used embryonic stem cells from rhesus monkeys to generate immature sperm known as round spermatids, which do not have a head and tail for swimming because they are at an earlier stage in their development.

These spermatids were shown be able to fertilize a rhesus macaque egg.

Although scientists have previously been able to produce sperm-like cells using mouse stem cells, rodent sperm production is markedly different from that of humans.

Until now, the researchers said, it wasn’t clear that the technology could ever work to help male infertility.

‘This is the first step that shows that this technology is potentially translatable. We use a strain that is more relevant to us and we manage to make healthy embryos,” says Easley.

Researchers used embryonic stem cells from rhesus monkeys to generate immature sperm known as round spermatids, which do not have a head and tail for swimming because they are at an earlier stage in their development.  These spermatids were found to be able to fertilize a rhesus macaque egg (photo)

Researchers used embryonic stem cells from rhesus monkeys to generate immature sperm known as round spermatids, which do not have a head and tail for swimming because they are at an earlier stage in their development. These spermatids were found to be able to fertilize a rhesus macaque egg (photo)

This fall, the researchers plan to take the next step of implanting these embryos into a surrogate rhesus monkey to investigate whether they can produce a healthy baby.

If that step is successful, the team will perform the same process using spermatid-like cells derived from macaque skin cells.

That’s because another challenge the field has to overcome is that no human adult has embryonic stem cells.

Scientists think that converting skin cells into a stem cell state, which can be done reliably, is the solution.

Sarah Norcross, director of the fertility and genomics charity PET, said: ‘This is an important step in establishing whether sperm made in the lab could one day be used for human reproduction.

“We’ll be watching closely how the researchers do this work in macaques, first to see if eggs fertilized with this type of sperm can lead to a pregnancy, and then see if a pregnancy can be achieved with sperm derived from skin cells.

“Even if all these things are achieved in macaques, it will take many years and much more research before such techniques are suitable for use in human treatments.”

The latest research is published in the journal Fertility and Sterility Science.

HOW DOES THE SEMEN MOVE?

Sperm is vital in human reproduction and male cell motility is crucial.

To help the sperm cells move, they developed a “tail” called a flagellum.

The tails of sperm play a vital role in their ability to swim and consequently fertilize an egg.

Using Noble Prize-winning technology, scientists discovered spirals in tubes in the tails of sperm

Sperm is vital in human reproduction and male cell motility is crucial. The tails of sperm play a critical role in their ability to swim and consequently fertilize an egg

Sperm tails are made up of about 1,000 building blocks, including structures known as tubulins, which form long tubes.

Attached to these tubes are moving molecules called motor proteins.

These pull and bend the sperm tails, allowing them to swim.

The movement of the tail is powered by a mitochondria, the powerhouse of a cell, which produces energy.

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