Great news for wannabe new dads. Scientists this week have been given the go ahead to make an artificial testicle that produces human sperm. If successful, the device could be a major solution to male infertility.
A team, led by specialist Dr Paul Turek from San Francisco, have been given the go ahead to create the device after receiving a substantial grant.
The proposed device shouldn’t be confused with a fake testicle prosthesis which are commonly used by men missing a testicle. These are filled with a saline solution, what the scientists are proposing is one that would actually make sperm.
Scientists have tried to create sperm cells before but have only managed to complete three-quarters of the process in the laboratory. The highly specialisd environment found in a man’s testicle is needed to complete the process.
Now Dr Turek’s team hope they can make such a ‘sperm-making biological machine’. It will be shaped like a cylindrical bag a few inches long and attached to the body. It would have to be replaced after every cycle of sperm production, which takes 70 days.
To make the artificial testicle, the researchers will have to develop a technique to grow human sperm cells. They plan to use a man’s embryonic stem cells ‘fortified’ with genes to steer them into becoming reproductive cells that could then be used in an IVF procedure.
Dr Paul Turek said: ‘This grant is quite an honour and comes after several years working together on this idea. We have assembled a great group of scientists who are very committed to its success.’ He is currently working on a prototype and estimated it would take five to seven years to perfect the method.