As a discovery that could help millions of infertile couples around the world and also pave way for understanding age-related diseases, a team led by Indian origin scientist Azim Surani at the Cambridge university has created primitive forms of sperms and eggs.
In their research, the scientists used induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) – that is they reprogrammed adult skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cells. These cells were then developed into precursors of human sperm and egg cells in a dish.
Dr.Surani’s team replicated the method used by Japanese scientist Mitinori Saitou of Kyoto University. In 2012, Saitou created artificial precursors of mice sperm and eggs. As the next step, he further planted the sperm precursors within mice testicles and the egg precursors within mice ovaries to enable them to develop into functional sperms and eggs. Later the sperms and eggs were fused using in vitro fertilization to create baby mice.
Although the Cambridge team has developed precursor human sperm and eggs, it will be a long way before the experiment is extended to introduce them into humans. Amander Clark, a reproductive-biology expert at the University of California, Los Angeles says “Regulators should make way for the human experiments that will be necessary to move the technology to the clinic and potentially enable some sterile men and women to conceive. In the United States, for example, law forbids federal funding of the creation of human embryos for research purposes, something that would be necessary to test the new technology. The restrictions “need to be lifted and replaced with universal guidelines on how to do this research ethically and safely.”