Dr. Bastuba describes the research being conducted on male fertility.
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Current Research Into Male Fertility Well there are varying levels of sperm production. It takes a certain amount of sperm production to have any sperm in the ejaculate that is the fluid coming out of the top of the penis. In males with very low sperm production we can find sperm inside the testicles and that sperm is only useful for in vitro fertilization, but unfortunately about two percent of males in the population don’t make any sperm, and so this group of patients is more difficult to treat. Those patients typically have something called Sertoli cell-only syndrome, a more proper term for it would be germinal cell aplasia and that means that they do not have any of those stem cells inside the testicle that are the sperm producing cells. And so, instead of having only a few sperms that we can go inside the testicle and find, these males have no sperm. To treat them, science currently is using some of the techniques that you hear about in the newspapers and one of the most intriguing of those techniques is actually taking a somatic cell. These aren’t germ cells. Germ cells are sperm cells and oocytes, the cells that are typically the ones used to bring about a pregnancy and to help keep our whole species alive. Those cells are very specialized cells. They have only half of the genetic content of a normal cell in our body and that’s why when a sperm and an egg come together, now we have those 46 chromosomes again. Before they only had 23 a piece, they combine. Well research right now is actively looking at taking a somatic cell, just like if you are old enough to remember that Woody Allen film where he was running around with the nose of the, I believe it was the imperial commander and he ultimately threw it under a steamroller, but that nose was going to be used to clone this person back again. Well, what’s going on now, that science fiction has caught up with science in the sense that current scientists are learning how to take a somatic cell, one with 46 chromosomes, and turn it into a germ cell that only has 23 chromosomes and so, that in males with no sperm in their body we could still make a cell that would work similar to a sperm cell in the sense that you could combine it with an egg and that that cell would have the genetic content from a male in a similar sense that a sperm cell does. And so, even for males that have zero sperm in their body, there is future hope that we would be able to allow them not to use donor sperm, which would be sperm from another male, but to actually make a sperm cell for them from them.
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