Thursday 18 July 2019

Scientists have 'grown human sperm in test tube' to combat male infertility

The study of 155 men found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables with high pesticide residue levels had a 49pc lower sperm count
The study of 155 men found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables with high pesticide residue levels had a 49pc lower sperm count

Sasha Brady

Scientists claim to have grown mature human sperm in test tubes in a breakthrough that could help combat male infertility.

The breakthrough promises to help young boys made sterile by cancer treatments and adult men who cannot make their own sperm, scientists have claimed.

The sperm cells, which have been developed for the first time in a “bioreactor” in a laboratory, are said to look identical to those produced naturally.

According to the Associated Press, the “heart of the problem is the interior of the testicle” so they decided to replicate this function in the lab. In order to pull off this complex trick, they “developed a bioreactor using a viscous fluid made partly of substances found in the walls of mushrooms or in crustacean shells to reproduce the conditions within the body.”

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And according to the scientists at a research institute in Lyon, France, the technology could be ready within up to four years to help men who are unable to make their own sperm have their own biological children.

Marie-Helene Perrard, a senior researcher at the French national centre for scientific research (CNRS), said young men with cancer would be the first type of patient who could be helped by the process.

She said their fertility could be preserved by developing mature sperm from their immature cells and then freezing them.The technology could help treat issues affecting 15,000 young cancer patients and 120,000 men worldwide whose infertility cannot be treated any other way, she added.

Read more: The fertility waiting game  

But experts have expressed doubts over the claims and said it was impossible to know the quality of the sperm until the findings were officially published.

Scientists have been searching for a way to produce human sperm that could fertilise human eggs in a test tube for the past 20 years – but with no success.

Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at Sheffield University, told The Independent on Sunday that the French scientists had made a "bold claim".“Until I'm able to see the published research I'm deeply sceptical," he said.

Read more: Time to shine scientific spotlight on male biological clock

"If they have a scientific paper in press, why not wait until it's published before going public?"The picture of the sperm they have published is not convincing. It doesn't look like a mature sperm to me, but an elongated cell. The only decent thing for the science and for the public is for them to show us all the evidence.

Nathalie Rives, an infertility expert from Rouen in northern France, added: 'We are not there yet.

'Before this technique can find any practical application, it must be proven to work with cells from the testes of prepubescent boys and men who have trouble generating sperm.'

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