A team of researchers led by the University of Georgia College of Public Health has received a $2.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to test a novel method of producing viable sperm cells from skin cells.
The project could mark a pivotal advancement in therapies to address male sterility.
Led by Dr. Charles Easley, the team is working to show that they can reprogram skin cells into spermatogonial stem cells that, when transplanted into a sterile testis, can restore sperm production.
“It’s true regenerative medicine, where we’re replacing something that’s been lost,” said Dr. Easley, “It could be a game changer.”
The current project is testing the safety and feasibility of the new therapy with skin cells from Rhesus macaque monkeys.
The journey from skin cell to sperm cell takes a few steps. The team will need to first reprogram the skin cells into an intermediary type of cell called in induced pluripotent stem cell, known as iPSC.
An iPSC works in a similar way to an embryonic stem cell, said Dr. Easley, in that it can become any kind of cell in the adult body.
The innovation of this project lies in the use of the male’s own genetic material and iPSC technology to produce a spermatogonial stem cell that should look and act like a naturally occurring cell.
The final step is to assess the health of the regenerated sperm and ultimately produce a healthy embryo. If this stage proves successful, the next phase is clinical trials, bringing science one step closer to offering a safe, one-time solution to male sterility.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on December 13