London: An artificial testicle that produces human sperm could help solve the problem of male infertility, scientists have said.
A team of researchers, led by specialist Paul Turek from San Francisco, have been given the go ahead to create the device after receiving a substantial grant.
They have tried to create sperm cells before but have only managed to complete three-quarters of the process in the laboratory. The highly specialised environment found in a man’s testicle is needed to complete the process.
Now, Turek’s team hope they can make such a “sperm-making biological machine”. It will be shaped like a cylindrical bag a few inches long and won’t be attached to the body.
It would have to be replaced after every cycle of sperm production, which takes 70 days.
It shouldn’t be confused with a non-sperm-producing prosthesis that is commonly used by men missing a testicle, which are filled with a saline solution.
Turek is currently working on a prototype and has estimated that it would take five to seven years to perfect the method.
“This grant is quite an honour and comes after several years working together on this idea,” the Daily Mail quoted Turek as saying.
“We have assembled a great group of scientists who are very committed to its success,” he said.
To make the artificial testicle, the researchers will have to develop a technique to grow human sperm cells. They plan to use embryonic stem cells “fortified” with genes to steer them into becoming reproductive cells.
While studies have shown it’s possible to treat infertile male mice by producing sperm using stem cells from the mouse, human studies have failed.
Turek said that one of his main aims is to “re-create the testicle in an artificial environment, with all of its components.”