Japanese sperm cell breakthrough offers hope to infertile men

Mar 24, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- In what can only be described as cosmic forces at work, Japanese scientists working at Yokohama University, just south of Tokyo, have in the midst of a national crises, announced a major breakthrough in fertility science; they have figured out how to grow sperm cells outside the body. While the nation counts its losses from the earthquake and tsunami, a new way to help men who have been unable to conceive children, might just be on the way.

As originally reported in Nature, Takehiko Ogawa and his team from Yokohama University have discovered that by using the right mix of chemicals (which turned out to be the commercially available KnockOut - a solution made to assist in stem cell growth) they could not only keep a mouse testes sample alive, but that it would, after just a few weeks, begin to produce viable sperm cells; sperm cells that when injected into a female ovum, wound up in the delivery by surrogate, of a live healthy mouse.

Scientists have been working on the problem of producing viable sperm cells for over a hundred years, with little to no success. Until now, researchers had been able to keep testes tissue alive, but when the sperm cells reached the meiosis stage, (the point during cell division when are swapped) things simply stopped.

In the new procedure, a testes sample was taken from the testicle of a live male mouse before it was old enough to produce sperm cells. That sample was then continuously soaked in the KnockOut solution for several weeks, and then, the sample began to produce live ; complete with head, body and tails, just as they would have had they been left in their natural state. Those mice that were born as a result so far seem normal, and were even able to reproduce as well. The team also discovered the procedure would work with a previously frozen specimen as well.

The reason this breakthrough is so important is because it might help , particularly those who as young boys lost their ability to reproduce due to cancer treatment, have children. It’s also important because it will help researches better understand how cells work; which might eventually lead to more breakthroughs in other areas.

Explore further: Improving the productivity of tropical potato cultivation

More information: In vitro production of functional sperm in cultured neonatal mouse testes, Takuya Sato, Kumiko Katagiri, Ayako Gohbara, Kimiko Inoue, Narumi Ogonuki, Atsuo Ogura, Yoshinobu Kubota & Takehiko Ogawa, Nature 471, 504–507 (24 March 2011) doi:10.1038/nature09850

Related Stories

The long road of fertility

Nov 17, 2010

Surviving childhood cancer comes at a cost; along with temporary but gruelling side effects, the life-saving treatments children receive may render them infertile as adults.

Human adult testes cells can become embryonic-like

Mar 23, 2009

Using what they say is a relatively simple method, scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have extracted stem/progenitor cells from testes and have converted them back into pluripotent embryonic-like stem cells. ...

Treating male infertility with stem cells

Mar 02, 2007

New research has examined the usefulness of bone marrow stem cells for treating male infertility, with promising results. The related report by Lue et al, “Fate of bone marrow stem cells transplanted into the testis: potential ...

Cloning the male genome may help infertile men

Jul 03, 2007

Artificially replicating the male genome could help men with very low sperm counts become fathers, a scientist told the 23rd annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (Tuesday 3 July).

Researchers make stem cells from developing sperm

Aug 06, 2009

The promise of stem cell therapy may lie in uncovering how adult cells revert back into a primordial, stem cell state, whose fate is yet to be determined. Now, cell scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine ...

Recommended for you

Building better soybeans for a hot, dry, hungry world

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study shows that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yields while requiring less water and helping to offset greenhouse gas warming. The study is the first to demonstrate ...

Gene removal could have implications beyond plant science

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —For thousands of years humans have been tinkering with plant genetics, even when they didn't realize that is what they were doing, in an effort to make stronger, healthier crops that endured climates better, ...

Chrono, the last piece of the circadian clock puzzle?

20 hours ago

All organisms, from mammals to fungi, have daily cycles controlled by a tightly regulated internal clock, called the circadian clock. The whole-body circadian clock, influenced by the exposure to light, dictates the wake-sleep ...

User comments : 9

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jscroft
1 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
So much for vasectomies being permanent.
fuviss_co_uk
3 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
science could solve every problem
trekgeek1
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2011
science could solve every problem


Yes, I agree. When people say "science can't fix everything", what they should really be saying is "science can't fix everything because we'll screw up before it can". The reason it seems like science fails spectacularly at times is because humans get scared and abandon their efforts or religious nuts cripple the rate of progress because the scientific endeavor is against their beliefs.
Burnerjack
1 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2011
While I can empathise with someone who wants to be a father but can't, another side of my brain says " Oh good! We need science to make it easier to add to the human population!" Where would we be if the population was a mere 2 billion?
qitana
3 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
does science define what a problem is ?
qitana
3 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
does science define what a problem is ?


and if so, could it define all problems ?
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2011
does science define what a problem is ?


and if so, could it define all problems ?


"Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge."
-Carl Sagan

I say there is no better method to determine problems. Something seems off, you try to hypothesize why, you collect data, you analyze the data and draw a conclusion. Even if you don't have the initial suspicion, plotting data can indicate a trend toward a problem.
JadedIdealist
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 25, 2011
Soon males will be obselete.. watch your backs boys.
fuviss_co_uk
not rated yet Mar 25, 2011
Soon males will be obselete.. watch your backs boys.


hehe
I think sperm is not the only thing which women want from us, I also think that they prefer to make children in classic way than in vitro :)

More news stories

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...