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Functional sperm developed in vitro from primate embryonic stem cells

Abbie Harper

Progress Educational Trust

25 October 2021

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[BioNews, London]

Stem cells from rhesus macaque monkeys have been used to make sperm in a lab.

The study, published as a preproof paper in Fertility and Sterility Science, is the first to demonstrate making functional sperm cells in vitro using primate embryonic stem cells. As global rates of male infertility rise, the researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, have provided hope for future clinical therapies for infertility.

'This is a major breakthrough towards producing stem cell-based therapies to treat male infertility in cases where the men do not produce any viable stem cells,' noted lead researcher Dr Charles Easley, from the University of Georgia's College of Public Health.

Rhesus macaque embryonic stem cells were used to generate sperm cells in the earlier stages of development, lacking a head and tail for swimming, known as spermatids. The spermatids were capable of fertilising a rhesus macaque egg in vitro. Scientists have previously produced sperm-like cells using mouse stem cells, but rhesus macaques are a more useful model for examining potential infertility therapies as they have a more similar reproductive mechanism to humans.

Sarah Norcross director of the Progress Educational Trust, the charity that publishes BioNews, said: 'This is a significant step in establishing whether sperm created in the lab could, one day, be used for human reproduction. We will be watching closely as the researchers carry out this work in macaques, first seeing whether eggs fertilised with this type of sperm can lead to a pregnancy, and then seeing whether a pregnancy can be achieved with sperm derived from skin cells. Even if all of these things are achieved in macaques, it will still take many years and much more research before such techniques are fit for use in human treatments.'

The research team plan to implant the embryos formed using in vitro spermatids into a surrogate rhesus macaque, to examine whether they can produce a healthy baby monkey. If successful, they intend to repeat the process using spermatid-like cells derived from macaque skin cells.


A new breakthrough for treatment of male infertility
University of Georgia |  19 October 2021
Blastocyst development after fertilisation with in vitro spermatids derived from non-human primate embryonic stem cells
Fertility and Sterility Science |  1 September 2021
Male infertility breakthrough as scientists successfully create viable sperm from monkey stem cells – and say it could work on humans too
Daily Mail |  21 October 2021
Male infertility cure? Scientists create new sperm cells using monkey stem cells
Study Finds |  20 October 2021

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 25 October 2021   Date Updated: 25 October 2021
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