Dr Ahmed Ismail

Consultant Gynaecologist & Fertility Expert


Artificial sperm could bypass fertility laws

A Breakthrough by scientists could lead to new treatments for infertile men using artificially-derived sperm.

Researchers in Japan revealed that sperm cell-derived sperm had bred healthy offspring in mice in a ‘hugely exciting’ development.

Experts said it could pave the way for new treatments which appear to ‘side-step’ British laws that prohibit the use of laboratory-made sperm.

The research involved coaxing stem cells extracted from early stage embryos to become sperm precursors called primordial germ cells.

When these cells were transplanted into newborn mice lacking their own PGCs, they continued developing to become normal-looking sperm.

The sperm cell-derived eggs, generate pregnancies, and produce male and female mouse pups which grew into health, fertile adults.

Previous animal experiments have led to the birth of unhealthy offspring which quickly die.

It was ‘quite a step forward’ in the search for a process by which sperm could be made for infertile men, perhaps by using skin or bone marrow cells as a starting point, said fertility expert Dr Allan Pacey.

One way the technique could be used, if the law allows it, would be to help cancer patients.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy for childhood cancer can wipe out a boy’s future fertility before his sperm can be frozen. In such cases, artificial methods of producing sperm may be a man’s only hope of fatherhood. A crucial aspect of the study was that fully mature sperm was not created in the laboratory, said Dr Pacey of the University of Sheffield.

Using functional laboratory-made sperm in fertility treatment would be illegal in Britain but Dr Pacey said the Japanese team had only created precursor cells which were allowed to complete their development naturally.

‘Under British law you would not be allowed to use an artificial gamete (a sperm or egg),’said Dr Pacey.




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