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BGU Scientist Achieves Breakthrough for Male Infertility

BGU Scientist Achieves Breakthrough for Male Infertility

December 5, 2011

Medical Research

by Karin Kloosterman

In the western world couples who have trouble conceiving go to sperm banks when the male produces no viable sperm. And while these options are available in the Middle East, the more traditional male types here obviously fare better psychologically when the baby is born with his own blood, and DNA.

But for men with a zero sperm count, or boys undergoing treatment for cancer, there were no other options – until now.

Prof. Mahmoud Huleihel from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has developed an artificial testis in a test tube. It opens a world of possibilities for infertile men.

Taking sperm germ cells from a mouse testis, Huleihel and his team managed to generate live and functioning sperm from the unripened sperm cells. While another technique can cultivate sperm from sperm tubules (or parts of the sperm generating organ) demonstrated six months ago, Huleihel’s lab is the first to take germ cells to create sperm, opening the door for simple, cost-effective treatments down the road.

In his breakthrough Huleihel takes undifferentiated sperm, and adds them to a matrix and special solution he formulated in a test tube.

The findings are published online in the Asian Journal of Andrology, where Huleihel outlines the generation of spermatozoa from mouse testicular germ cells under in vitro culture.

“This study may open new therapeutic strategies for infertile men who cannot generate sperm and/or prepubertal cancer patients at risk of infertility due to aggressive chemo- or radiotherapy, and cannot cryopreserve sperm as in adult patients,” he says.

I spoke with him last week about future directions for humankind, and he says it could take about 5 or 10 years for the idea to be a commercial product – such is the way in biotech. Meanwhile he is continuing the experiments, in humans – on infertile men with a zero sperm count presenting themselves at IVF clinics, and on sperm germ cells from a young boy who underwent radiation treatment.