by Dr Agilan Arjunan, Fertility Specialist, KL Fertility Centre ( Malaysia)
Male infertility has gained some traction in the last few years. We can see more mainstream media writing about male infertility. When we look at the male infertility, the majority of the problem is with sperm quality. This means majority of men can produce sperm but with reduction in quality. The quality parameters that are commonly used to assess sperm are sperm density, sperm movement, viability of sperm and percentage of normal-looking sperm. For men with sperm quality problems, depending on severity, sometimes dietary supplements and life style changes alone could able to help them father their child. However, a significant majority would still need some form of fertility treatment such as IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination) or IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation).
But what about men with no sperm ejaculated(azoospermia) ? Normally they undergo an assessment to determine if its due to sperm production issues or blockage in the pathway of sperm ejaculation. They may even undergo a minor surgical procedure to retrieve sperms directly from testicles. Once sperms are retrieved, the next logical step is IVF (ICSI). If no sperm retrieved, IVF with a donor sperm is an option. This has been the standard pathway for many years now. But the future for those suffering from azoospermia may not be so gloomy after all .
Some scientists in China has managed to ‘grow’ sperm in laboratory. How they do it ? First of all you need to understand about stem cell. Stem cells are native cells that can grow to become ‘any’ cells in your body. This is genetically programmed. So, the scientists took stem cells and ‘directed’ it to grow into sperm with a mixture of chemicals. Then, they use the sperm to fertilise an egg and managed to have healthy offsprings. This is a medical breakthrough in treatment of infertility. However, this initial work is done on mice but this has shown the world that treatment of Azoospermia is about to see a new chapter very soon.
But what all this means to a man suffering from azoospermia? It means that they will have a chance to father their child using their own genetic. But you may ask where the man going to find his own stem cell? The answer is their own cell from skin! Scientists managed to get stem cells from skin cells and this may be the answer.
As a fertility specialist, I am very excited with this new developments. Hopefully in near future, I can offer a solution to all my patients with azoospermia. Be patient…
You can read the original report here : http://www.bbc.com/news/health-35658650