AsianScientist (Mar. 23, 2011) – The field of reproductive biology has been shaken up by a new report in Nature this week, in which scientists from the Yokohama City University successfully cultured mouse testes cells and induced them to produce sperm.
Sperm production (spermatogenesis) is a long and complex process. This process involves a type of cell-division termed meiosis, which was previously thought to be unattainable in a culture dish.
In the study, Takehiko Ogawa and colleagues cultured tissue fragments from neonatal mouse testes outside the testes. After several weeks, they found sperm in the tissue, and nearly half of these had flagella (tails). Using fluorescent protein tags, they tracked sperm development and showed that sperm formation peaked after about a month.
The researchers then injected the sperm into egg cells, which developed into a dozen healthy and fertile mice.
To show the potential for long-term storage, the researchers used testes tissue that had been frozen for months to grow sperm.
The implications of this research are vast. This breakthrough may advance knowledge in reproductive sciences, using this technique to understand the molecular steps involved in sperm production.
Azoospermia, or oligozoospermia, due to disruption of spermatogenesis are common causes of human male infertility. If the research in mice can be translated to human germ cells, it may have clinical applications for male infertility. For example, the technique could aid prepubescent boys about to undergo cancer therapies that destroy fertility.
For animal researchers working with endangered species, this research may potentially be used to protect the germ cells of endangered animals that might die before reaching sexual maturity.
The article can be found at: Sato, T. et al. Nature 471, 504-507 (2011).
Source: Nature Publishing Group.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.