The world’s first lab-grown human sperm cells was successfully created by French scientists, in what authorities say may be a humongous leap in tackling the subject of male sterility.
In the eastern French city of Lyon in the Kallistem laboratory, they announced they had accomplished a world’s first, by attaining a “complete human spermatozoa in vitro”, which scientists have painstakingly studied for some 15 years.
“At the end of 2014 the company was able to produce fully formed human spermatozoa in the laboratory setting, using patient testicular biopsies containing only immature germ cells, or spermatogonia,” the laboratory company said in a statement.
“This research paves the way for innovative therapies to preserve and restore male fertility, a major issue with global impact; numbers of spermatozoa have declined by 50 percent over the last fifty years,” they added.
Since this unparalleled research has not been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal, experts greeted the news cautiously, while acknowledging that if scientifically proven, the achievement would be such a significant breakthrough.
Spermatogenesis, the process in which the basic reproductive cells, the germ cells, develop into spermatozoa, is complex one, as it takes 72 days inside the human body, according to Kallistem.
The researchers said this major breakthrough is instrumental in providing solutions to tens of thousands of men suffering from abnormal sperm production, or nonobstructive azoospermia, which renders them infertile.
Accordingly, the company projects that the treatment for male infertility will be worth over 2.3 billion euros or $3.43 billion, and more than 50,000 new patients every year.
“From a testicular biopsy, it will be possible to obtain spermatozoa that will be cryopreserved until the man wishes to father a child,” their statement read.
Kallistem will be holding until 2016 preclinical trials and clinical trials in 2017.
Lab-created spermatogenesis had only been previously successful in mice.
“If it works, this procedure opens great prospects,” a fertility clinic manager, Nathalie Rives told Le Figaro newspaper.
However, she has reservations, saying adults suffering from a complete lack of sperm had “genetic anomalies which would also prevent in vitro spermatogenesis.”
The co-founder of the European Bioethics Forum, Professor Israel Nisand told Le Figaro that the procedure was preferable to reproductive cloning.