In a breakthrough that could revolutionize male infertility treatment, scientists have for the first time created sperm in a lab, outside of the human body. This advancement could protect or restore male fertility for tens of thousands worldwide in the near future. Biotech firm Kallistem has achieved this innovation. The company recently announced that it had done so at the end of 2014. Scientists at the company used patient testicular biopsies containing spermatogonia or underdeveloped germ cells. For over 15 years a number of scientific firms have been trying to be the first to achieve spermatogenesis in vitro. This is a terribly complex process that takes 72 days to complete. A company spokesperson says they used two entirely new, patented technologies which meet current regulatory standards. The company has funded its own research to date. Now, it is looking for partnerships to help take this development to the next level.
Kallistem seeks to turn this breakthrough into a viable fertility therapy for men whose fertility is treatment resistant. Pre-clinical trials will come to a close in 2016. This technique will then undergo clinical trials starting in 2017. Within five years, it is hoped that fertility clinics will be able to offer this technique. Men will be able to have their sperm created in a lab that can then be used to fertilize their partner’s egg. Male infertility is a global problem. Sperm quality and counts have been dropping for the last half-century. Scientists still aren’t sure why. PBAs, chemicals used in agriculture, aluminum and many other substances are suspected. Professor Hervé Lejeune of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Lyon University spoke out about this breakthrough. She called it “a real biotechnology achievement.” She also said, “This opens up long-awaited therapeutic possibilities.” There are 50,000 patients with at-risk fertility each year globally, according to statistics. Another use, today there is no treatment to protect the fertility of prepubescent boys going through chemotherapy for cancer treatment. There is also no current treatment for males who have treatment-resistant infertility. This breakthrough will lead to techniques to protect or reinstitute the fertility to males in these cases.