Scientists create testicles in a lab in new hope for male infertility

 Scientists create testicles in a lab in new hope for male infertility
Scientists create testicles in a lab in new hope for male infertility Copyright Canva
By Oceane Duboust
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Scientists managed to create organoid testicles, a major scientific achievement that paves the way for further research to help with male infertility.

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Scientists in Israel have managed to create artificial testicles in what could be a significant step in helping men with fertility issues.

The testicles, or testes, are responsible for sperm production and androgen synthesis which play a part in male sexual development. Infertility affects up to 7 per cent of men.

Currently, no in vitro system exists for modelling the testis and producing sperm in the same way that IVF treatment can harvest eggs from a female.

"Artificial testicles are a promising model for basic research on testicle development and function, which can be translated into therapeutic applications for disorders of sexual development and infertility," Dr Nitzan Gonen who specialises in the process of foetal sex determination said in a statement.

The team led by Gonen and her research students at Bar Ilhan University, published its results in the International Journal of Biological Sciences.

Potential uses in male infertility

The miniature artificial testicles generated are synthetic organs created using mouse testicular tissue, effectively replicating the natural characteristics of a human testicle with a high level of accuracy.

Organoids - miniature, simplified versions of organs grown in a lab, usually embedded within a gel-like matrix - have been increasingly developed this last decade.

They provide a deeper understanding about how an organ functions and reacts, compared to the two-dimensional cellular samples.

The testicular organoids were created from embryonic and neonatal mouse testis closely mimicking in vivo testis characteristics.

One of the main challenges for organoids is to then get blood flow in and out.

Scientists indicated that the organoids collapsed after nine weeks and that it was suggesting a need for vascularisation.

The findings could potentially pave the way for the production of sperm in the laboratory.

It presents a first step for potential future applications for children affected by cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation for instance which lead to infertility in a third of cases.

Not the first organoids

Different organoids have already been produced by researchers in the last decade.

Before that development, scientists relied on flat, 2D cell cultures as the workhorses of medical research. These simplified models, consisting of single-cell layers grown on a dish, provided valuable insights into cellular behaviour.

However, their limitations became increasingly apparent. Unlike real organs, 2D cultures lack the complex three-dimensional architecture and cell-to-cell interactions crucial for mimicking organ function and disease processes.

Scientists successfully grew the first brain organoid from foetal tissue last month, according to Science.

In previous years, organoids of the lungs, kidneys, liver and intestine also have been successfully developed.

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