Sunday, August 26, 2012

Accessible Research: Boar sperm transplant

In researching for my K99 grant application, I came across this paper, and couldn't pass up the chance to write about it:

DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0531.2006.00651.x
M Mikkola, A Sironen, C Kopp, J Taponen, A Sukuru, J Vilkki, T Katila, and M Anderson
Reproduction in Domestic Animals, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp124-138, 2006

It is a very strait-forward paper, which makes my job easy. Take home message:

Sperm stem cell transplants. One pig produces poorly-functioning sperm (think infertility) and the other produces healthy, happy sperm. Take healthy sperm stem cells, implant them very carefully into the testes of an individual who produces poorly-functioning sperm, and the new stem cells can take hold, and start producing healthy sperm. Amazing. We should be very, very, cautiously optimistic, because the researchers only conducted two trials. That said, this treatment worked in these specific domesticated boars, which means, because of evolutionary similarities, this method has a chance of working to address sperm-related infertility in humans as well.

An interesting implication, though, is that the healthy, and more abundant, sperm cells are genetically those of the donor. So, any children sired are more likely to come for the donor sperm, and thus would be more similar, genetically, to the donor than the treated individual, who co-produced the offspring. There could be some very interesting cases of parental origin and responsibility if this treatment ever makes it to humans. 

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Also, I know you're just dying to know what my K99 is about. I'll let you know, once I have all the details hashed out. 

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