Chinese scientists have created sperm from embryonic stems cells from mice. They injected female mouse eggs with functioning sperm, creating normal and healthy offspring.
The study which was conducted by Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences was published in the peer academic journal, Cell Stem Cell.
While the work is a long way from being applied to humans, it marks a step forward in treating male infertility.
“If proven to be safe and effective in humans, our platform could potentially generate fully functional sperm for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization techniques,” said team leader Jiahao Sha. “Because currently available treatments do not work for many couples, we hope that our approach could substantially improve success rates for male infertility.”
The embryonic stem cells, which were taken from mouse embryos, were used to germ cells that were later exposed to testicular cells which helped these germs cells mimic and transform into “sperm-like cells with correct nuclear DNA and chromosomal content,” according the study.
Still, there are many differences to how human stem cells work, when compared to mice, so while this study can be important, human application is still a long way off.
According to ABC Health, one out of six couples is infertile, and 40% of the time it is due to male infertility. One in 25 males has sperm abnormalities or a low sperm count, and one in 35 is sterile.