Scientists announce they have for the first time grown sperm cells in a laboratory – promising that a treatment for infertile men is on the way.
In a communique a France-based company has said it has successfully turned scraps of genetic material into complete fully-functioning sperm – a world-first. If what the company claims turn out to be true, it may prove life-changing for the tens of thousands of men around the world who cannot produce their own sperm.
The Kallistem laboratory, a private research facility based in Lyon, said it would be possible to carry out human clinical trials in less than 2 years.
The company hopes in due course of time, it will be able to treat 50,000 patients a year. When fully-commercialised its market would be worth £1.7 billion.
Nonetheless, the findings are yet to be published, and haven’t been peer reviewed or independently verified – so, British experts last night were treating the claims with scepticism.
According to Kallistem its team has actually turned basic male fertility cells, called spermatogonia, into mature sperm in test tubes.
Isabelle Cuoc, the firm’s CEO, said: ‘Kallistem is addressing a major issue whose impacts are felt worldwide: the treatment of male infertility. ‘Our team is the first in the world to have developed the technology required to obtain fully formed spermatozoa [sperm] in vitro with sufficient yield for IVF.
The process called Spermatogenesis – through which the basic reproduction cells develop into sperm – is a very complex one. It normally takes 72 days to happen in the human body, with a continuous supply of basic cells being transformed into mature sperm. Nonetheless, a few men suffer from nonobstructive azoospermia – or abnormal sperm production – rendering them infertile.
Scientists since 15 years have been trying to devise a procedure to extract immature spermatogonia, from infertile men, transform it into mature men, and use IVF to produce a child. Many times in the past they have shown that they can artificially replicate the procedure in mice – but this is the first time it has been shown to work using human cells.
Next year they will show that the procedure is safe in pre-clinical trials – & if successful Kallistem claim they will be a position in 2017 to assist the birth of a baby in clinical trials.
The team will take a sample of immature spermatogonia from a man’s testicles, and turn the genetic material into mature sperm, and then use it in traditional IVF procedures.
If the patient wants to father a child at a later date, his sperm could be kept in a frozen state until he’s ready.
But Professor Allan Pacey, an expert in male fertility at the University of Sheffield, warned couples to keep their fingers crossed. ‘This is a bold claim to make and we have had our fingers burnt before with people making this claim, ‘ he said.
HOW JUST FOUR PINTS OF LAGER A WEEK HARMS MALE FERTILITY
A study has found that having just a little more than three pints lager a week, or half a pint a day, can reduce sperm quality, in young men.
Drinking over 7.5 units of alcohol a week causes this effect. An average pint of beer have around 2.3 units.
Study also found that as the man drinks more – the toll carries on to rise.