Producing a family is one of the most basic urges and families that have trouble with fertility can face plenty of issues. Being told you're infertile is a shocking blow to young families but scientists and researchers are doing more to reverse these issues every day, and the answer to a major type of infertility might come in stem cells.
The new technique is something out of science fiction, but researchers have already found success in trials dealing with mice. Some men simply don't produce enough sperm to property fertilize an egg, but the new cell therapy could use skin cells as the new frontier in fertility medicine.
A normal male body contains two chromosomes, an X, and a Y. However, 1 in 500 men suffers from Klinefelter Syndrome, a condition which causes the man to produce an extra X chromosome and 1 in 1000 men suffer from double Y syndrome. In cases where the man has three chromosomes, it is difficult to produce viable sperm for reproduction.
Luckily for tens of thousands of men, James Turner of the Francis Krick Institute may have found a solution for men with three chromosomes and the link fertility issues that those conditions cause. In the study, Turner and his team bred mice that had an extra chromosome, they then reprogrammed skin cells from the animals and transformed those cells into induced pluripotent stem cells. To the team's surprise, the reprogramming was enough for a third of the skin cells to drop the extra chromosome. These reprogrammed cells were then reprogrammed to act like sperm cells and were used for a nearly 60% successful fertility rate.
The early results are positive, though the team still needs to perfect what has made stem cell research so difficult reproducing stem cells in culture. What we really need to make this work is being able to go from iPS cells to sperm in a dish, says Turner.
Other Progress in Stem Cell Research
The work of Turner and his team illustrates that stem cells may be much more versatile than previously thought and other research teams across the globe are finding new uses for stem cells as we speak. Recently, Dr. Kenneth Pettine of Northern Colorado completed a three-year study which found safe and effective use of stem cells to treat chronic degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis. The work of teams like Turners, Pettines, and more will bridge us into an age of medicine led by stem cells that could eliminate and eradicate several types of medical issues.