In at least one-third of couples who are struggling to conceive, it’s thought the hurdle links back to male reproductive issues. Unfortunately, unlike for women, treatment options for men that actually work are few and far between.
But the findings of a new study could spark hope for the guys who struggle to conceive. Through stem cell transplantation, researchers were able to restore fertility in mice — and the cure might just work for humans in the future.
The findings were published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For the study, the research team took a group of mice that had been chemically castrated – they did this by knocking out a gene called Cldn11. This gene codes for a protein of the same name, which forms a major component of the blood-testis barrier.
The blood-testis barrier is one of the tightest blood-tissue barriers in the body and provides a special environment for spermatogenesis — the production of sperm — to take place. When the mice lacked the CLDN11 protein, it caused big defects in the blood-testis barrier, and spermatogenesis screeched to a halt.
To remedy this, the researchers carried out an autologous stem cell treatment – in which the cells come from one’s own body – on the infertile mice. Specifically, the researchers used spermatogonial stem cells, sperm’s precursor cells. These stem cells are known for their unique ability to move from