Scientists have created sperm cells from skin cells – an endeavour that is expected to help couples afflicted with infertility. The paper is published online in Scientific Reports.
15% of the world population of couples are unable to have children because they do not have the gametes. They, thus, often have to make use of donated sperm and eggs. This might hopefully change, as a new study brings forth another possibility for them.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way for these people to have their own gametes? This is the concept that scientists from Spain have put forward. They have been able to make human sperm from skin cells, thereby bringing hope for infertile couples to have their own children.
The study was conducted by researchers from the first medical institution in Spain – the Valencian Infertility Institute – that is completely dedicated to helping couples with reproduction. One of the authors, Carlos Simon, who is the scientific director of the institution, explains that their aim is to address the problem of couples lacking gametes by creating the cells for them. Simon says that they drew inspiration from the work of the pair of scientists who won the Nobel Prize for their discovery revolving around the transformation of adult cells into embryo-like stem cells (scientists Shinya Yamanaka and John Gordon).
Simon and his colleagues were able to reproduce the end result of that research. They reengineered mature skin cells genetically so that they could produce gametes. These cells made the transition to germ cells that could then become sperms of eggs. However, these sperm and egg cells were not able to fertilise because they had not yet undergone maturation into gametes.
Therefore, we are a long way from actually having a child born from this method. In the meantime, more analysis and testing will need to be done. Furthermore, the ethical aspect of this practice will have to be taken into consideration since some countries do not allow the creation of artificial embryos.