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Scientists grow world’s first artificial human TESTICLES in a lab in a potential breakthrough


Scientists have announced that they have grown artificial testicles in a dish, a development that they claim could help treat infertility in men.

These lab-grown testicles are not yet fully functioning, sperm-producing organs, but they do share many of the same structures and genetic characteristics as natural ones.

This will allow scientists to investigate fertility problems in men and possibly treat them by producing artificial sperm. 

Additionally, the scientist who led the work told DailyMail.com she believes these artificial testicles can be used to study the effects of different toxins on testicle function.

Increasingly, research has suggested that environmental pollutants in everything from food to children’s toys impact male fertility, and many believe the rise of these chemicals is partly fueling America’s fertility problem.

This testicular organoid was incubated in a lab dish for 14 days. The tubular structures are a crucial part of testicle anatomy, suggesting that this organoid functions as expected

This testicular organoid was incubated in a lab dish for 14 days. The tubular structures are a crucial part of testicle anatomy, suggesting that this organoid functions as expected

And down the line, the technique used to grow these artificial testicles could help survivors of childhood cancers have children of their own if chemotherapy leaves them infertile. 

‘We plan to create human testis organoids and explore whether a sperm can be generated there,’ said lead researcher Nitzan Gonen, a researcher at Bar Ilan University in Israel. 

Artificial sperm cells would presumably have faithful copies of a man’s DNA, because they would be grown from his own stem cells.

Fertility problems affect 10 to 15 percent of men, and male infertility plays at least a partial role in half of all cases of couples who fail to conceive. 

But it is difficult for scientists to study the reasons behind male infertility, as there is currently no laboratory model for studying the testicles. 

These testicular organoids were grown from mice pups' cells and incubated in a dish for 21 days. Sertoli cells (red) are responsible for the formation of the tubules in the testicle. Germ cells (green) will produce the sperm cells.

These testicular organoids were grown from mice pups’ cells and incubated in a dish for 21 days. Sertoli cells (red) are responsible for the formation of the tubules in the testicle. Germ cells (green) will produce the sperm cells. 

That is where these testis organoids come in, miniature 3D models of testicles that can be used to study the real thing. 

In the past, scientists have had to rely on data gathered from testes from people who have died, which does not offer the same insights as these organoids, which are not alive but which are continually growing as if they were alive.

The artificial testicles in this study started as stem cell samples taken from newborn or embryo mouse testes.

Stem cells have the potential to develop into any one of the body’s many cell types – including brain, muscle, skin, and testes.

To grow the testicles, Gonen’s team placed these stem cell samples in laboratory dishes and coaxed them to develop into the different types of cells that make up mouse testicles.

There they grew for several weeks, and scientists periodically examined them to see whether they were looking like naturally grown mouse testicles. 

The result is not testicles exactly, but rather structures called ‘testicle organoids,’ meaning small versions of the organs that contain the same types of cells as the original and behave similarly.  

This testicular organoid was created from mouse embryos and incubated in a dish for 14 days. The tubular structures are the same. Marked in green are Sertoli cells, which are the cells responsible for the formation of the tubules in the testicle and, indeed, create the tubules in the dish.

This testicular organoid was created from mouse embryos and incubated in a dish for 14 days. The tubular structures are the same. Marked in green are Sertoli cells, which are the cells responsible for the formation of the tubules in the testicle and, indeed, create the tubules in the dish.

Organoids look a lot like organs in the embryonic stage of development, Gonen said. 

After eight or more weeks, the testicle organoids showed signs that they were entering meiosis, the stage in the life cycle of testicles when they produce sperm cells.

Testicles are made up of a number of different cell types that serve multiple functions, including producing sperm and giving off hormones. 

Crucially, they found that testis organoids could be grown from newborn or embryonic mice, but not from adults. 

These 21-day-old cells are in testicular organoids. They are called Sertoli cells, and they grow the tubule cells necessary for testicles to function

These 21-day-old cells are in testicular organoids. They are called Sertoli cells, and they grow the tubule cells necessary for testicles to function

Examining the testis organoids, Gonen and her team observed that they contained some of the essential structures for normal testicular function: tubules, germ cells, and Sertoli cells.

The tubules carry sperm, the germ cells produce the sperm cells, and the Sertoli cells help form the tubules.

All of these were present in the testis organoids.

The study appeared in the International Journal of Biological Sciences. 

‘We still cannot say for sure if our organoids allow full sperm production in the dish, but we saw signs that the germ cells in the organoids we generated are entering meiosis,’ Gonen said. Meiosis is the process by which sperm halve their DNA in preparation for fertilizing an egg. 

‘We are working now to better understand if we managed to produce sperm.’

The team is now working to figure out whether these organoids can actually produce sperm cells – and whether they can produce sex hormones like testosterone.

They also plan to see whether they can grow similar artificial testicles from biopsies taken from pre-pubescent boys who are about to undergo chemotherapy.

Gonen said she and her team also want to grow ‘fully artificial testis’ from stem cells, not just from testicle cells. 



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