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Stem Cells Changed into Precursors for Sperm, Eggs
Human embryonic stem cells derived from excess IVF embryos may help scientists unlock the mysteries of infertility for other couples struggling to conceive, according to new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Researchers at the school have devised a way to efficiently coax the cells to become human germ cells -- the precursors of egg and sperm cells -- in the laboratory. Unlike previous research, which yielded primarily immature germ cells, the cells in this most-recent study functioned well enough to generate sperm cells.
"Ten to 15 percent of couples are infertile," said senior author Renee Reijo Pera, PhD. "About half of these cases are due to an inability to make eggs or sperm. And yet deleting or increasing the expression of genes in the womb to understand why is both impossible and unethical.
Figuring out the genetic 'recipe' needed to develop human germ cells in the laboratory will give us the tools we need to trace what's going wrong for these people." Reijo Pera is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the medical school and the director of Stanford's Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education. The study will be published online by Nature on Oct. 28. Read more.