FOR the first time Spanish scientists have been able to create human sperm from skin cells, which is a huge leap forward in a potential new treatment for infertility.
The scientists stated that they were working to find a solution for roughly 15 per cent of couples worldwide who are unable to have children and whose only option currently is to use donated sperm or eggs.
Carlos Simon, the scientific director of the Valencian Infertility Institute, Spain’s first medical institution fully dedicated to assisted reproduction, said: “What to do when someone who wants to have a child lacks gametes (eggs or sperm)?”
“This is the problem we want to address: to be able to create gametes in people who do not have them.”
Published on Tuesday April 26 in Scientific Report-the Online Journal of Nature, the result of their research, which was carried out with Stanford University in the United States, was originally inspired by Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka and Britain’s John Gordon, who in 2012 both shared a Nobel prize for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells.
From this initial discovery, Carlos Simon and his team managed to reprogramme mature skin cells by adding a mixture of genes to create gametes. The skin cell took a month to transform fully into a sperm or egg cell but at this stage in the research has been unable to fertilise.
Simon said: “This is a sperm but it needs a further maturation phase to become a gamete. This is just the beginning.”
Earlier this year Chinese researchers stated that they had created mice from artificial sperm.
Simon continued: “With the human species we must do much more testing because we are talking about the birth of child.”
“We are talking about a long process.”
The creation of artificial embryos is only allowed in some countries at present.