Rudimentary egg and sperm cells made from stem cells

Dec 26, 2014

Southern Illinois University/Science photo Library

By David Cyranoski

Israeli and UK researchers have created human sperm and egg precursor cells in a dish, starting from a person’s skin cells. The achievement is a small step towards a treatment for infertility, although one that could face significant controversy and regulatory hurdles.

The experiment, reported online in Cell on 24 December1, recreates in humans parts of a procedure first developed in mice, in which cells called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — ‘reprogrammed’ cells that can differentiate into almost any cell type — are used to create sperm or eggs that are subsequently manipulated to produce live births by in vitro fertilization.

In 2012, stem-cell biologist Mitinori Saitou of Kyoto University in Japan and his collaborators created the first artificial primordial germ cells (PGCs)2. These are specialized cells that emerge during embryonic development and later give rise to sperm or eggs. Saitou made them in a dish, starting with skin cells reprogrammed to an embryonic-like state through iPS-cell technology (see ‘Stem cells: Egg engineers‘). They also were able to achieve the same result starting with embryonic stem cells.

Although his cells could not develop beyond this precursor stage in the dish, Saito found that if he placed them in mouse testes, they would mature into sperm, and if he placed them in ovaries, they would mature into functional eggs. Both sperm and eggs could be used for in vitro fertilization.

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5 comments on “Rudimentary egg and sperm cells made from stem cells

  • It was bad enough that Catholics don’t want me to wear a condom for fear that I might waste a potential life. or that they attempt to get stem cell research blocked for fear of the loss of day old embro’s. Now every cell in my body is a potential life-form. Pope Fancis’s head may be about to explode.

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  • Our fertility is already far too high. For stability you should not have a positive population growth rate over decades.

    When we figured out how to eliminate childhood diseases, we should have done something to fertility to compensate. We have the pill an the condom, but that is nowhere near enough.

    Watch women around another woman with a newborn. They go positively gaga. That seems to me must be stimulating them to have a baby too.

    I don’t think we should be doing any more fertility research until:

    we have the population growth rate down to 0.
    we find homes for all the orphans.

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  • 3
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Hehe… Indeed. The Catholic Church may decree in the future that showering is a sin because washing makes one shed so much dead skin cells. Or maybe a decree against eating or drinking because dead epithelial cells inside your mouth are being swallowed and digested by your stomach. And what about clipping our toenails… OMG!!!

    That’s the thing about religious belief… it keeps getting more ridiculous as science and knowledge moves forward.

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  • Won’t someone think of the ZEFs? How is God going to ensoul these children of Satanic scientific origin? These scientists that tamper with sacred, sacred conception are damned, I tell you! Damned!! To Hell!!!

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