Latest science news: Sperm as stem cells?

images-2.jpeg I have a bit of an interest in reproductive technology and stem cells, and this is quite an interesting story, although it sounds as if it’s still in the early stages. It seems that the researchers think a particular subset of spermatogonial cells can be manipulated to form other tissue types, such as blood vessel, brain and muscle cells.

This is great news for guys of course. A source of relatively easily accessible stem cells (but sorry guys, you can’t produce them the fun way, there needs to be a “small little sample of flesh from the testicles”) that could be used in later in life to treat a number of diseases. As long as there is genetic compatibility, the cells generated could also be transplanted into other people, including females.

The stem cells isolated are naturally multipotent (can generate many types of cells), and this is an advantage over other types of adult stem cells which have undergone genetic reprogramming (“induced pluripotency”), which seems to carry a risk of making them malignant. So far, the research has only been carried out on mouse models, and they have not yet discovered a way to produce desired cell types at will.

A lot of the press release is speculation of course, but the Nature paper shows that they now have the ability to isolate and purify these particular cells (due to the expression of a specific protein on the cell surface) and the efficient production of large numbers of cells which retain the ability to become multipotent adult spermatogonial-derived stem cells (MASC’s), but not, it should be pointed out, germline cells.

I wonder what the reaction of the religious community is going to say to this? After all, these are not embryonically derived cells. But, every sperm is sacred?
ABC science story
Weill Cornell Medical College – press release
HHMI News

Full Text version of the actual paper

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4 Comments on “Latest science news: Sperm as stem cells?”

  1. 范高睿 Says:

    If these cells can be extracted from testes, logically they should be available (though not necessarily in the same quantity) from ovaries. Or would that be too convenient?

  2. Trailer Thoughts Says:

    Personally I think that this discovery is great because it would help out the world and the religious world can’t get mad about it.

  3. 范高睿 Says:

    The religious* world could get upset about it, and probably will:
    – removing bits of testicular tissue will cause fewer sperm to be made and “ev’ry sperm is saaaacred, ev’ry sperm is greeeat; if a sperm is wasted, god gets quite iraaaate!” /monty
    – you’re playing god with diseases. It is, after all, the benevolent, loving god’s will that people get unpleasant and painful diseases. It’s a test of faith, apparently.
    – as it involves sexual organs, it’s instantly embarrassing to the followers of St Francis of Assisi, who never got any and had a few hang-ups about passing the jade gate.

    * Christians, Jews and Muslims, that is. Not too many other religions are as hung up on sex as those from the sand-pit peninsula.

  4. ambrielle Says:

    Heh. I love monty python 🙂
    I’m sure the religious would be able to find something wrong with it.

    I tried to find out if there would be equivalent cells in women. Initally I though that as all the eggs are made by the time we are born, then there wouldn’t be any stem cells left, but apparently this isn’t the case. See here:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050516081103.htm

    Quite interesting, but I’m not convinced they are as accessible as the sperm stem cells!


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