‘Game Over Lads’: Scientists Create Sperm in Laboratory Dish

Infertile men may soon be able to father children with their own sperm – grown outside their bodies.

The team, from Germany’s Munster University, harvested germ cells which form sperm in mammals and used agar jelly to create an environment similar to that found in the testicles. The trial was successfully replicated in Israel. Photo: SLU Madrid Campus/Flickr

A major breakthrough in the production of artificial sperm has been made by a team of German and Israeli researchers, Independent reports.

Researchers in Germany and Israel were able to grow mouse sperm from a few cells in a laboratory dish.

The achievement, which was a world first, was made by a team headed by Professor Stefan Schlatt, at Muenster University in Germany.

According to The Telegraph, scientists grew the sperm by surrounding the germ cells in a special compound called agar jelly to create an environment similar to that found in testicles.

Professor Mahmoud Huleihel, who also grew the sperm at Israel’s Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, said: “I believe it will eventually be possible to routinely grow human male sperm to order by extracting tissue containing germ cells from a man’s testicle and stimulating sperm production in the laboratory.”

Now the scientists who made the discovery have begun experiments that will hopefully lead to the ‘Holy Grail’ – human sperm grown outside a man’s body.

Stephen Gordon, a leading British male infertility consultant, praised the breakthrough. He said: “This is an amazing development that could revolutionise fertility treatment and allow every man to be a natural father.

“Infertile men naturally want to be the father of their child but at present have to accept that can’t happen. With the mouse discovery, that could now be a possibility.”

The problem of male infertility has grown over the last 50 years and has been matched by huge decrease in sperm counts in men. Some of this has been attributed to environmental factors such as pollution and female hormones appearing in plastic packaging.

Mr Gordon, a urologist, who practises at Epsom Hospital, Surrey, said: “Even with our latest microsurgical techniques there are still thousands of men — who are otherwise healthy –who can’t naturally father babies and rely on sperm donation.”

Professor Huleihel said his team were now working ‘as quickly as possible’ to reproduce their success in mice to help infertile men.

“We have already applied the same tests as we did with mice in the laboratory, using human cells, but as yet have not had success. We are confident that if it can be done in a mammal such as a mouse it can be done in humans.

“We are experimenting with a number of different compounds to get the germ cells to grow into sperm. And we believe it will be possible. And, hopefully, soon.”

Professor Huleihel said his team were now working ‘as quickly as possible’ to reproduce their success in mice to help infertile men.

“We have already applied the same tests as we did with mice in the laboratory, using human cells, but as yet have not had success.

“It has taken us several years to reach this stage so a technique to create human sperm won’t come overnight but we have started that research already after our success with mice.”

In an attempt to speed up the search for a way of making human sperm Professor Huleihel’s team is about to start talks with Professor Richard Sharpe at Edinburgh University.

Professor Sharpe said: “What this research shows is that it will be possible to make human sperm outside the body. The germ cells just need the right environment. That’s the tricky part getting them to think they are in the testes

“What you would do is take some human testicular tissue with germ cells and place that under the skin of the mouse and use it to incubate the cells,” he said.

“You could then extract any sperm and use it in fertility treatment. But we would have to demonstrate that there were no mouse cells present in the extracted sperm if we were to use this technique and I believe that’s possible.”

The German-Israeli team hopes to be ale to begin trials with human germ cells soon. The findings were published by science journal Nature.

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