Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have identified the growth factors essential to allow spermatogonial stem cells -- the continually self-renewing cells that produce sperm -- to exist in culture indefinitely. Their findings will be presented this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science online Early Edition.
After being kept in culture for three months, the stem cells restored sperm production, and therefore fertility, in infertile mice. According to the researchers, this development will have profound consequences for future fertility therapies and provide a source of stem cells that will make it possible to modify genes from males before they are passed to the next generation. While the research was performed in mice, the researchers believe that it is likely applicable to other species, including humans.
"Weve demonstrated that a central signaling process allows spermatagonial stem cells to continually renew themselves, essentially becoming immortal," said Ralph L. Brinster, a professor of reproductive physiology at Penn. "For research, this opens up a wonderfully robust diagnostic system for analyzing the function of individual genes. For medicine, it opens up a new chapter in fertility medicine."
Greg Lester | EurekAlert!
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