Creating Sperm from Skin

Researchers create early stage sperm cells from induced pluripotent stem cells, raising hopes that infertile men could be fathers.

By Hayley Dunning | August 30, 2012


Men made infertile by cancer treatments could have their fertility restored by creating new sperm from their own skin samples, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reported last week (August 23) in Cell Reports. While there is the opportunity for men to bank their sperm before undergoing cancer treatment, this doesn't help young, pre-pubescent boys or men who didn’t plan that far ahead, lead author Charles Easley told The Telegraph.

“There are procedures to store testicular tissue prior to cancer therapy, but men who didn’t have the opportunity to save tissue are permanently sterile, and so far there are no cures for their sterility,” he said.

Easley and colleagues developed an in vitro culture to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells from adult skin samples, and differentiate the cells into advanced male germ cell lineages, including post-meiotic, spermatid-like cells. The technique mirrors the in vivo process, and produces spermatids similar to human sperm.

“This model also gives us a unique opportunity to study the molecular signals that govern the process, allowing us to learn much more about how sperm are made," said Easley. “Perhaps one day this will lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating male infertility.”

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