Image Source: Telegraph.
Welcome the new year with a story about rejuvenation and regeneration for men - and possibly women - who have cancer and cannot have children due to the anti-cancer treatments. Scientists are on the verge of growing sperm - and possibly ova - out of adult skin samples or other stem cell sources: From the Telegraph:
For some, the stem cell technique by which this could be accomplished is highly controversial and spiritually offensive. BBC reports on similar research and its procedures:Scientists have found that a man's fertility could be restored by the growing of early stage sperm from a skin sample. Research evidence suggests that adult cells, such as those of the skin, can be induced to return to a more primitive state and then turned into different cell types. To see if it was possible to produce sperm cells, a team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the US grew stem cells from skin samples and found they were able to generate key cells, including early stage sperm cells. It is hoped the technique could help men who had cancer during childhood become fathers, as infertility can be a side effect of some cancer treatments.
A Kyoto University team used mice stem cells to create eggs, which were fertilised to produce baby mice.
Dr Renee Pera, of Stanford University in California, aims to create human sperm to use for reproduction within two years, and eggs within five years.
Infertility affects up to 15% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide.
"I know people think it's Frankenstein medicine, but I think it's not an imagined or lessened health problem - infertility affects your whole life," Dr Pera says.
"To have sex and have a baby would be a super simple decision, but not everybody can do it."
But using embryonic stem cells for research - as Dr Pera's lab at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine does - is controversial because the embryos are destroyed in order to use them.
Dr Pera's lab uses embryos left over from IVF treatments.
Stem cells have the potential to grow into any cell in the body. Creating eggs in a lab could become mainstream, much like IVF is viewed today.
Dr Pera says there are about one million or 1.5 million embryos made each year in America using IVF - and about 500,000 of those embryos are discarded. About 500 of those embryos are used for research, she said."And people worry about those 500 instead of the 500,000 discarded," Dr Pera says.
The Japanese study marks the first time a mammal has been created from stem cells. It is being hailed as the Holy Grail of reproductive stem cell research.
The researchers at Kyoto University say they have demonstrated how to grow eggs and sperm in a lab and combine them to produce seemingly healthy offspring.
"We are reinvigorated again. It seems that something every two years comes out that gets everyone reinvigorated," Dr Pera said of the Japanese study.
"We've been mostly working on the human system to do the same things - to make mature eggs and mature sperm in a dish."