In a tale of mice and men, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers have made a breakthrough in rodents that could eventually help infertile male humans. The group, led by professor Mahmoud Huleihel, has produced mouse sperm from germ cells using in-vitro techniques.
The researchers at Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the Faculty of Health Sciences in Beersheba, in cooperation with professor Eitan Lunenfeld at Soroka University Medical Center and professor Stefan Schlatt of the University of Münster in Germany, pioneered a three-dimensional cell culture system on a bed of agar to produce sperm from the germ cells. The Jerusalem Post reports that Huleihel believes that the three-dimensional cell culture system succeeded where previously-tried two-dimensional systems did not, because it uses soft agar that closely replicates the natural environment in the male mouse’s testes where the final stages of spermatogenesis normally take place.
While it is too soon to move into human experimentation with this technique, the researchers are hopeful that their discovery will eventually lead to treatments to help infertile men, or boys who risk infertility by having to undergo medical treatments that could damage their ability to produce healthy sperm later in life.