7.3 million women, 15-44 years of age experience some type of fertility impairment
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 7.3 million women, 15-44 years of age experience some type of fertility impairment. On the contrary, statistical information concerning males shows that 2,000,000 men per year are diagnosed as infertile. Infertility is a reality faced by many couples, but there are constant advances being made in the medical field, which improve the odds of conception and can help people have a healthy baby.
Reprogramming human induced pluripotent stem cells into eggs and sperm
Researchers at UCLA were able to reprogram human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) into cells that could become eggs and sperm. The study results could be of vital importance to those who were made infertile due to an accident, injury or disease. The iPS cells were coaxed into forming germ cells which include parental genetic material, which could be passed onto offspring. The germs cells would be specific to the parent and could be taken and reprogrammed into other stem cells, which have the capacity to transform into any cell within the human body.
The iPS cells could be transformed in germ line precursor cells which could eventually become an egg or sperm cell. The research team also discovered another important fact, iPS cells were different than germ line cells harvested from human embryonic stem cells, and further ongoing research is required to better understand many unknown factors. Certain important regulatory processes present in the human iPS harvested germ cells, are lacking which requires science to further explore.
When the body forms germ cells, the cells need to undergo a specific series of biological changes. One of the essential biological changes the cell must go through is the regulation of imprinted genes, which is necessary for the cell to function properly. If the biological process is not performed correctly, the possible egg or sperm cell would be at a high risk of not working properly and could result in the birth of an unhealthy child.
Further research is required in order to determine if the iPS derived germ cells have the ability to self-regulate and correct themselves, like human cells can. When researchers looked at the germ cells harvested from embryonic stems cells, these regulated as expected, however, the iPS from germ cells do not regulate in the same way. Creating germ cells from embryonic stem cells is a very difficult endeavor and researchers were only able to yield positive results in about 10% of cases. If germ cells harvested from a person’s own adult cells can be reprogrammed, it could serve to further improve treatments involving infertility, opening the door for many couples who have yearned to be parents for years, but have thus far yielded no results using other methods.