UK experts on Nature stem cell and infertility genes paper

Scientists have used embryonic stem cells to create the precursors of human sperm and eggs. They hope the techniques may be used to improve the effectiveness of infertility treatments.

Our colleagues at the Science Media Centre in the UK wrapped up comment on the paper in Nature.

The full title of the paper is: Human DAZL, DAZ and BOULE genes modulate primordial germ-cell and haploid gamete formation by Kehkooi Kee, Vanessa T. Angeles, Martha Flores, Ha Nam Nguyen & Renee A. Reijo Pera

Professor Darren Griffin, Professor of Genetics, University of Kent, said:

“This is a very elegant study. Although the paper describes the transformation of stem cells into cell that are akin to gametes, it is important to note that the main significance of the work is not to attempt to generate gametes for couples who do not produce them naturally. Rather, the work describes a system in which various aspects of germ cell development can be studied in a dish, rather than relying on animal models or removing bits of people’s gonads. In the current study they have gained insight into the function of three genes in which they specialize.”

“In future, however, a range of genetic and environmental factors could be studied, including the effects of pollutants on our fertility. Only through understanding such factors at a basic scientific level can we hope to develop novel diagnoses and therapies. The potential is enormous.”

Please note that Allan is on holiday at the moment so please don’t call him unless it’s really necessary

Dr. Allan Pacey, Senior Lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield, said:

“The genetic and molecular processes that control spermatogenesis (the production of sperm) are extremely difficult to study but are immensely valuable to understand as they might shed new light on why some men are sub-fertile.

“Ultimately this may help us find a cure for male infertility. Not necessarily by making sperm in the laboratory (I personally think that it unlikely) but by identifying new targets for drugs or genes that may stimulate sperm production to occur naturally. This is a long way off, but it is a laudable dream.

“This is a useful and well balanced paper that helps us move one step closer to understanding how sperm are made. The authors have some interesting results and have nicely balanced their findings without raising unreal expectations to couples who are subfertile because of male factor infertility.”