Skin Cells Turned Into Sperm


Medical Achievement – Treatment for Infertility

Human sperm from skin cells have been developed by scientists from Spain, a medical achievement which could lead to treatment for infertility. The researchers informed that they had been working with a solution for the approximately15% of couples worldwide who tend to be unable to have children and the only option for them is to use donated sperms or eggs. Carlos Simon, scientific director of the Valencian Infertility Institute, the first medical institution that is entirely dedicated to assist reproduction in Spain, had asked `what to do when someone who wants to have a child lacks sperms or eggs?

This is the problem needed to be addressed, to be able to create gametes in people who do not have them’. Outcome of the research that had been carried out with Stanford University in the United States had been published recently in Scientific Reports, which is the online journal of Nature. The team had been motivated by the work of Japan’s Shinya Yamanaka and Britain’s John Gordon who had shared a Nobel Prize in 2012 for the discovery where adult cells could be altered back into embryo-like stem cells. Within a period of one month, the skin cell had transformed into a germ cell which developed into sperm or an egg, though they found that it did not have the ability to fertilize.

A Step Ahead of the Chinese Researcher

Simon had informed that `this is a sperm though it required a further maturation phase to become a gamete and this is just the beginning’.It seemed to be a step ahead of the Chinese researcher who had earlier in the year, announced that they had created mice from artificial sperm. Simon added that with the human species they could do much more testing since they are talking about the birth of child and are talking about a long process.

 The researchers need also to take into account the legal constraints as the technique involves the creation of artificial embryos that presently is only permitted in some of the countries. British law prohibits fertility clinics in the UK from utilising artificial sperm and eggs in treating infertile couples. If the law is reviewed, skin cells could probably be taken from patients and changed into genetically alike sperm or eggs for use in IVF therapies.

SOX17, Vital in Turning Human Stem Cells in Early-Stage Sperms/Eggs

A woman’s skin cell could only be utilised to make eggs since they lack the Y chromosome. Those from a male could ideally be changed into eggs as well as sperm though Azim Surani leading the work at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge states that on the basis of present knowledge, the same was doubtful. Surian informed the Guardian that it is not impossible that they could take these cells on towards making gametes, though whether they could ever use them would be another question for another time. In the process of their work, Surani’s team also learned that a specific gene, SOX17, was vital in turning human stem cells into early-stage sperm and eggs.

This discovery was surprising since in mice the corresponding gene does not tend play any role. Surani comments that mice are the key model used to study mammalian development and is generalized from mice to human. He adds that this work tells that the generalization could be unreliable. It is not that all work in mice does not apply to humans but there are essential differences which are needed to be watchful.

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