Israeli scientists offer hope for infertile guys

JERUSALEM – In a major leap for male fertility research, Israeli scientists have successfully engineered “laboratory testicles” derived from mouse cells, opening new avenues for the possible production of sperm in a controlled laboratory environment.

The testis plays a pivotal role in sperm production and the synthesis of testosterone. Abnormalities in its development and function often lead to disorders such as male infertility and disorders of sex development. Until now, there has been a notable absence of in vitro systems for accurately modeling testis function and development.

Dr. Nitzan Gonen and her team of research students at Bar-Ilan University successfully crafted artificial testicles known as testis organoids. These miniature organs, created from real mouse testis cells, closely mimic the natural structure and function of the testis.

Their findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Biological Sciences.

“Artificial testicles are a promising model for basic research on testicle development and function, which can be translated into therapeutic applications for disorders of sexual development and infertility,” Gonen said.

The achievement marks a significant milestone in the burgeoning field of organoid research. Organoids are miniature, simplified versions of organs grown in vitro, typically from stem cells or tissue samples.

They mimic the structure and function of real organs, allowing scientists to study organ development, function, and disease in a controlled laboratory setting.

Researchers have already produced brain, kidney, and intestinal organoids.

The Bar-Ilan team’s process involved culturing immature testicular cells obtained from neonatal mice, leading to the formation of tubule-like structures that closely resemble those found in natural testicles.

Remarkably, these artificial testicles were sustained in vitro for an extended period of nine weeks, potentially providing ample time for the
completion of sperm production and hormone secretion processes.

While the team has observed early indications of meiosis, the process of gamete production, the researchers stressed that further investigation is required to determine if functional sperm cells can be generated. 

The message of this news item for infertile males is clear and simple: Don’t lose hope yet, unless you’re already hopelessly hopeless and old. (TPS)