Stem cell research produces human germ cells. American researchers have turned human stem cells into germ cells — the cells in human embryos that develop into egg and sperm cells. Scientists at Stanford University said the research could help infertile couples struggling to conceive and will shed light on a stage of human development that has been difficult to study. “Humans have a unique reproductive system,” Renee Reijo Pera, Stanford professor of obstetrics and gynecology and senior author on the study, said in a statement. “Until now we’ve relied on studies in mice to understand human germ cell differentiation, but the reproductive genes are not the same. This is the first evidence that you can create functional human germ cells in a laboratory.” Reijo Pera’s research appears this week in the journal Nature. Previous studies have created immature germ cells, the researchers said, but the cells produced in this study were functional and produced their own sperm cells. Human cells observed in lab setting. Germ cells begin to form in humans early in embryonic development, so it has been difficult for scientists to study the processes that lead to germ cell formation. The researchers said this is the first time they’ve been able to observe human germ cells in a laboratory setting. The scientists used embryonic stem cells derived from excess embryos created through in-vitro fertilization. Reijo Pera and her colleagues at Stanford said their research could help infertile couple conceive and lead to a better understanding of some forms of birth defects, which can be traced back to the development of eggs and sperm. “Ten to 15 per cent of couples are infertile,” said Reijo Pera. “About half of these cases are due to an inability to make eggs or sperm.” news from cbc.ca
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