Human Sperm Stem Cells Grown in Lab, an Early Step Toward Infertility Treatment – UC San Diego Health

Infertility affects one in seven men of reproductive age worldwide. One idea for treating male sterility is spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) therapy. In this approach, sperm stem cells in the testis are transferred to a test tube, cultured and nudged into becoming fully fledged sperm. However, a key bottleneck has been identifying just the right conditions to get human SSCs to grow in the lab. There have been many attempts, but in most reported cases it was not clear whether the cells being cultured were actually SSCs, and no previously published method is routinely used.

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have now developed a reliable method for culturing cells with the characteristics of human SSCs. Their work is published in the July 13, 2020 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

SSC graphic

By applying an inhibitor of the molecule AKT, UC San Diego researchers are able to favor the culture of human spermatogonial stem cells in the lab, a first step toward lab-produced sperm as a treatment for male infertility. Illustrations by Vishaala Wilkinson

“We think our approach — which is backed up by several techniques, including single-cell RNA-sequencing analysis — is a significant step toward bringing SSC therapy into the clinic,” said senior author Miles Wilkinson, PhD, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Diego
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