Artificial testicle could help infertile men father children by creating sperm from stem cells
Fertility device in development after funding approved
Aim is to 're-create testicle in an artificial environment'
Experts say product will be ready in the next five to seven years
Baby joy: Infertile men could be able to have children in a few years after scientists revealed they are trying to create sperm cells in an artificial testicle
An artificial testicle that produces human sperm could help solve male infertility, say scientists.
A team, led by specialist Dr Paul Turek from San Francisco, have been given the go ahead to create the device after receiving a substantial grant.
Scientists have tried to create sperm cells before but have only managed to complete three-quarters of the process in the laboratory. The highly specialisd environment found in a man's testicle is needed to complete the process.
Now Dr Turek's team hope they can make such a 'sperm-making biological machine'. It will be shaped like a cylindrical bag a few inches long and won't be attached to the body.
It would have to be replaced after every cycle of sperm production, which takes 70 days.
It's not to be confused with a non-sperm-producing prosthesis are commonly used by men missing a testicle, which are filled with a saline solution.
Dr Paul Turek has received a grant to construct the artificial testicle
Paul Turek is currently working on a prototype and estimated it would take five to seven years to perfect the method.
He said: 'This grant is quite an honour and comes after several years working together on this idea.
'We have assembled a great group of scientists who are very committed to its success.'
To make the artificial testicle, the
researchers will have to develop a technique to grow human sperm cells.
They plan to use embryonic stem cells 'fortified' with genes to steer
them into becoming reproductive cells.
While studies have shown it's possible to treat infertile male mice by
producing sperm using stem cells from the mouse, human studies have failed.
Dr Turek said that one of his main aims is to 're-create the testicle in an artificial environment, with all of its components.'
An artificial testicle that produces human sperm may help solve male infertility
Despite his enthusiasm some remain sceptical.
Kyle Orwig an
associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences
at the University of Pittsburgh, said: 'It's an ambitious project.
'But it would be fantastic if it happened. It would be a major impact on the fertility field.'
He said that no one had yet
tried to create sperm by re-creating the 'home' of sperm cell production.
The testicles are responsible for producing and storing sperm. If they are damaged, it can seriously affect the quality of semen.
Testicular cancer, congenital defects or trauma are all causes of male infertility.