Worldwide First: Stem Cells Turned Into Sperm Turned Into Living Animals

By Joseph Castro | August 8, 2011 10:21 am

spacing is important

What’s the News: Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have created fully functioning sperm from mouse embryonic stem cells. The sperm cells were able to fertilize mouse eggs in vitro, and when the scientists implanted the embryos into surrogate mothers, the mice gave birth to healthy offspring. The research, published in the journal Cell, may someday help treat infertility in humans.

What’s the Context:

How the Heck:

  • The researchers first created epiblast-like cells from a cocktail containing embryonic stem cells and several growth factors and proteins, which control cell proliferation, differentiation, and other activities. Then, using their method devised a couple years ago, they turned those epiblast cells into primordial germ cells.
  • The team injected the germ cells into the testes of sterile mice. When the researchers later removed the mice’s testes, they found that the germ cells had matured into normal-looking sperm. So, they used the sperm to fertilize mice eggs in vitro, and implanted the eggs into several female mice. The mice later gave birth to 65 healthy pups, which then had babies of their own.

The Future Holds:

  • There is still a long way to go before the work can be translated to people—the main hurdle will be figuring out how to make human sperm cells from induced pluripotent stem cells, which are often taken from adult skin cells and other tissue. The researchers were able to do this in their mouse study (and some mouse pups were born), but the process was a lot less successful than when they used embryonic stem cells.
  • The researchers also want to figure out how to transform the embryonic stem cells into fully functioning eggs, and how to develop sperm without using mouse testes.

[via ScienceNOW]

Image courtesy of Gilberto Santa Rosa / Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
  • aldarion

    does this mean they could create an egg and sperm from my stem cells and have a child with myself?

  • Paul

    Did the stem cells have to come from a male mouse? If not, this might be a step towards lesbian couples having shared biological children.

  • http://DiscoverMagazine Templar 7

    Mary Shelly must be getting ansy in her sepulchre…Dr. Frankenstein would have loved to see this day!!

    LOL, just kidding.

    This was inevitable-so who’s first to raise the first ever generation?? As long as no abnormal results happen….

  • tom

    Last, I heard lesbians don’t have testicles…

  • megan

    They’ve already proven they can inject the nucleus of a sperm into an egg and induce it to split into a blastocyst then zygote. Putting any type of fully functioning cell nucleus into a ripe egg, it automatically starts to split and literally poking it or piercing it’s membrane.
    It’s a no brainer for then to take the nucleus from another woman’s egg and inject it into her partner’s egg and two women have a baby that way. Because it’s mostly MEN doing the research, the idea of women having babies together sans need for males, like most asexual mammals is TERRIFYING so it hasn’t been experimented researched. Instead time screwing around to find ways to make fake sperm is spent, like it’s a requirement.

  • James

    To megan: What is that I don’t even… lol feminists. It’s lucky for you that your not going to have to take brain cells in order for two women to have children together because I don’t think feminist have one brain cell between them. This is just scientific research that may in some way help medical science one day, it should in no way be seen as a way to replace either of sexes.

  • LP

    James, you, sir, are a complete asshole.

  • rarcher

    do we really need more humans?

  • chubbee

    James my very well be that, but he’s also absolutly correct.
    (Us A.H.s have to stick together)

  • Harry

    This should be seen as away to make sure men like James become obsolete

  • m

    Megan- That was so wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Did we suddenly fall back to the dark ages?

    Moving on – when they cloned the sperm, how did they ensure only 1/2 of the genetic material was left? The stem cell would have had 46 chromisones, but sperm only has 23. Anyone?

  • haversham

    *Cough* *Cough*

    Sorry, there’s so many straw men burning here I had to clear my throat to start this post.

    No one has brought up the fact that this could help male homosexuals also conceive a child, with the help of a willing woman to carry the child of course. It kind of blows the a hole in the idea that since men are the majority in science (to be honest, that’s changing for the better), they only do things that serve themselves, doesn’t it?

    Anyways, that’s not even the whole point of this, nor is it the most amazing. They’ve essentially made germ line cells from stem cells. This has potential ramifications for methods through which gene therapies can take place. They take a stem cell, perform whatever genetic alterations they want, turn it into sperm and egg, allow the cell populations to do what they do best. Compare this with ennucleating a cell, putting it into another cell, and then zapping it. One is fast with a larger creation rate, while the other is tech and time intensive and generally has low yield rates because it’s like trying to do open heart surgery with a cleaver.

  • Emily

    To Megan: Is it possible to inject the nucleus of a woman’s egg into her partners? That would be amazing! I know homosexual couples male and female and this would be an incredible discovery! This research is phenominal! I know that these couple sometimes find it difficult knowing they could never have a child genetically related to the both of them but now it seems anything is possible! It is amazing!

  • A.R

    How long might it be for this to be used on humans? and is there anywhere else in the world where they are creating sperm from some other part of the body (when a man does not have sperm in his testicles at all – after doing a testis biopsy) or even trials going on now that humans can participate in?

    Thanks!

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