IN A BREAKTHROUGH in male fertility research, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have succeeded in coaxing human skin tissue into early stage sperm cells.
Researchers say it may be possible one day to restore fertility for sterile males with an easily obtained skin sample.
The research which was published yesterday in the online journal Cell Reports said infertility affects 15 per cent of couples with male factors accounting for 40-60 per cent of cases.
For men without a genetic cause of infertility, those suffering the side effects of cancer treatments for example, this research represents a possible treatment option.
In a statement by the University of Pittsburgh, the study’s lead author Dr Charles Easley said there are procedures to store testicular tissue prior to cancer therapy but for men who did not have the opportunity to save tissue are permanently sterile, so far there are no cures.
Previous research has shown that somatic cells, such as skin cells, can be “induced or biologically prodded to return to a more primitive state and then redirected to become different cell types”. Easely and his team discovered it was possible to generate human sperm cells using the same method.
Easely said this model gives scientists a “unique opportunity to study the molecular signals that govern the process, allowing us to learn much more about how sperm are made”.
“Perhaps one day this will lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating male infertility,” he said.