Groundbreaking new stem cell research is offering up some hope for men struggling with infertility as scientists have successfully created functional sperm cells from monkey stem cells.
Scientists at the University of Georgia created the embryonic cells in a dish using stem cells collected from rhesus macaque monkeys to produce immature sperm cells called round spermatids.
Researchers were able to verify that those spermatids could fertilize a rhesus macaque egg – sparking hope for human trials.
Lead researcher, Charles Easley said: "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 sperm cells.
“This is the first step that shows this technology is potentially translatable. We’re using a species that’s more relevant to us, and we’re having success in making healthy embryos."
In the past, scientists have been able to create sperm-like cells using mouse stem cells but rodent sperm production is vastly different than humans.
However, rhesus macaques have a closer match to the human reproductive system, so much so, the study authors add these monkeys are an “ideal and necessary model for exploring stem cell-based therapies for male infertility.”
But in order for fertilization to occur in vitro spermatids, a number of factors come into play, including activating the egg to ensure that the fertilized egg develops into a healthy embryo.
Now that the team have successfully accomplished this, the scientists plan on implanting the embryos into a surrogate rhesus macaque.
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This next step will help them assess whether or not the embryos can indeed produce a healthy baby.
The news comes months after experts predicted most couples will need medical assistance to conceive by 2045 – as chemicals wreck our health.
Shanna Swan, professor of environmental medicine and public health at Mount Sinai school of medicine in New York City, has spent years studying the patterns of chemical effects on the body.
In 2017, she documented how average sperm counts among western men have more than halved in the past 40 years and by 2045 we will have a median sperm count of zero, according to the curve from the 2017 sperm-decline meta-analysis.
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