Researchers have identified the first gene linked to the productivity of the stem cells that produce sperm in mammals. The discovery was made by applying the latest laboratory methods to a strain of mice restored from embryos frozen since the early 70s. The findings, which could someday have implications for infertility, contraception, and stem cell transplantation therapy, will be published in the June issue of Nature Genetics.
What researchers are trying to do is unravel the mystery of the adult germ stem cells in male testicles, which are capable of producing an average of 1,500 sperm during every human heartbeat – or an average of 130 million sperm a day.
"The average man will maintain a high level of sperm production from puberty onward, for decade after decade. To maintain that high a sperm output, you need many functioning stem cells. But the stem cells have to walk a tightrope and carefully balance the decision to become a sperm with the decision to stay a stem cell, so that the sperm output is maintained for all of these years," said Dr. Robert Braun, associate professor of genome sciences in the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Walter Neary | EurekAlert!
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