Researchers lay groundwork for artificial human testicle

November 4, 2010

After years of unsuccessful efforts by numerous investigators, researchers have found a way to propagate primary human Sertoli cells in the laboratory?the first step, say the researchers, to developing an artificial human testicle for reproductive research.

After years of unsuccessful efforts by numerous investigators, researchers have found a way to propagate primary human Sertoli cells in the laboratory-the first step, say the researchers, to developing an artificial human testicle for reproductive research.

Derived from the testis, it has been difficult to maintain Sertoli cells outside of the human body. Results showing how the cultured human cells function were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in Denver.

The investigators believe this model will have groundbreaking implications for the study of human sperm production, cell-to-cell interaction in the testicle, and for the production of sperm in culture from early germ cells or even stem cells. According to lead investigator Paul Turek, MD, of the Turek Clinic in San Francisco, the research "is certainly a great foundation for eventually developing methods of producing healthy sperm in culture for men with severe male infertility."

“This is a very important first step,” Dr. Turek said. “Just as soil is the foundation to help plants grow, this model is the foundation to make sperm grow.”

Further research is needed to examine how hormones affect the growth and function of Sertoli cells and the ability of Sertoli cells to support germ cell development in vitro.