Doing (it) without men ?
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- Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 12:37:14 -0800 (PST)
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BBC Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Published at 14:32 GMT
Rodents make human sperm
The research is directed at male fertility problems
Researchers in Japan claim to have made rats and mice produce human
Nikolaos Sofikitis explains his researchThe team at the Tottori
University in Japan, say they implanted the human cells responsible
for producing sperm - spermatogonia - into rat and mice testes in
Five months later human sperm was detected in the animals.
Even more remarkable, if confirmed, is the disclosure that the
spermatogonia used in the experiment were taken from infertile men.
A letter has now been sent to the Japan Society of Obstetrics and
Gynecology asking permission to see if the sperm can fertilize human
Assistant professor Nikolaos Sofikitis said the key to success was the
use of the animals' own eye cells in the operation.
"Human sperm cells were protected by the eye cells," he said.
There are a number of teams working in this
area around the world. Previous attempts to grow human spermatogonia
in rats and mice had failed due to the animals' white blood cells
attacking the human transplant within the testes.
But when some of the animals' own eye cells were implanted in the
testes they killed off the white blood cells and allowed the human
spermatogonia to grow and eventually produce sperm.
The spermatogonia were taken from 18 infertile human patients and used
in 10 rats and eight mice, Sofikitis said.
There was much work ahead before it could be applied to humans, said
the researcher, describing the experiment as a breakthrough.
"I have to conduct many experiments before determining that these
sperm can function properly," he said.
Another researcher at the university, gynaecologist Yasuyuki Mio, said
he had applied to the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology for
permission to use the sperm produced by the rodents on human
"I would like to conduct many experiments by using sperm [grown in
animals] to see how they grow and function in eggs," he said.
Kazunori Ochiai, an assistant professor at Tokyo's Jikei University
Hospital who serves as spokesman for the Japan Society of Obstetrics
and Gynecology, declined to comment.
"We have yet to receive a request letter, so I can't comment," he
Professor Masao Miyagawa, who supervised Sofikitis' work, said it was
up to society to decide whether to use such sperm for humans. "It is
beyond our judgment," he said.
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