A new development in fertility treatment — scientists have successfully produced early-stage sperm cells from the skin cells of infertile men.
According to the study, Stanford University researchers took skin cells from infertile men, turned them into stem cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells and then implanted those cells in the tubules of mice testes. (Via Flickr / 7715592@N03, 33852688@N08)
Before we move forward, you might be wondering how scientists turned skin cells back into stem cells. This video from Stem Cell Network sums up the process.
"If some adult cell types are taken, grown in plastic dishes and given specific genetic instructions, over time a small number of these cells will reverse from their differentiated state and develop the ability to redifferentiate." (Via Vimeo / Stem Cell Network)
But while this new development seemingly bodes well for future fertility treatment, a writer for The Guardian points out one major concern.
"The cells that lodged in the tubules developed into early-stage sperm cells, but others turned into small tumours. The danger of causing cancer in the men is one of the major risks that scientists need to overcome." (Via The Guardian)
And LiveScience reports the research is still in its infancy, noting even though the stem cells produced germ cells, they "did not go on to form mature sperm in the mice." The head researcher for the study told LiveScience this is likely because of the "evolutionary differences between humans and mice."
Despite concerns, Nature World News says this research has potential, because there are various uses for the treatment. "There is also the possibility of using cells from endangered species to help boost their reproduction."
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about 12 percent of adults suffer from infertility. The study has been published in the journal Cell Reports.