Sperm cells in the testicles are able to mimic the embryonic stem cells and can develop into any of the adult cells in the body. These germ cells, also called spermatogonial cells, belong to the adult stem cells and are the precursor of sperm cells.
Based on a new study published in the online edition of the journal, Nature, Thomas Skutella and colleagues at the University of Tubingen, Germany, suggests that these cells can now be treated as the source of stem cells which can be used in the treatment of a variety of diseases. In this study, the researchers did a biopsy of cells from the testes and cultured them under laboratory conditions. When the cells were provided with the right combination of growth factors, the cells started mimicking the embryonic stem cells.
Depending on the chemical stimuli provided to these cells, they were able to transform into different types of adult cells including heart, bone, pancreas, and nerve cell. Skutella and colleagues reported that they developed a technique for establishing human adult germline stem cells from the testicles. “The cultured cells gradually lost their properties of the typical spermatogonial cells and developed characteristics of other cells, just like human embryonic stem cells," says Skutella.
“Several other studies have developed ways to transform adult cells into stem cells, but it is not clear whether testicular cells are better than the rest," says Joshua M. Hare, MD, director of the interdisciplinary stem cell institute at the University of Miami. “All studies are trying to come up with the best source of stem cells and do it in a more convenient and easy way," adds Hare.