After more than 30 years of unsuccessful efforts by numerous investigators, researchers have now found a way to propagate primary human Sertoli cells in the laboratory. Derived from the testis, it has been difficult to maintain Sertoli cells, the "nurse" cells responsible for overseeing sperm production, outside of the human body. This is the first step, say investigators, to developing an artificial human testicle for reproductive research. Results showing how the cultured human cells function will be presented at the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's (ASRM) in Denver on Tuesday.

The investigators believe this model will have groundbreaking implications for the study of human sperm production, cell-to-cell interaction in the testicle and for the production of sperm in culture from early germ cells or even stem cells.

According to reproductive health expert and lead investigator, Paul Turek, MD, former professor and endowed chair at the University of California San Francisco and founder of The Turek Clinic in San Francisco, the research "is certainly a great foundation for eventually developing methods of producing healthy sperm in culture for men with severe male infertility."

"This is a very important first step," said Dr. Turek. "It provides the soil for a plant to grow. Without the soil growing a plant is not possible. Just as soil is the foundation to help plants grow, this model is the foundation to make sperm grow."

Further research is needed to examine how hormones effect the growth and function of Sertoli cells, and the ability of Sertoli cells to support germ cell development in vitro.

The poster, Functional Assessment of Human In Vitro Sertoli Cell Based Blood-Testis-Barrier Model, will be presented at poster #128, 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 26, 2010.

About Paul Turek, MD
Paul Turek, MD is founder of The Turek Clinic and a former professor and endowed chair at the University of California San Francisco. As a men's reproductive health expert, he has pioneered innovative techniques for treating male infertility, including FNA Sperm Mapping. Dr. Turek serves on several advisory boards including the Cooperative Reproductive Network Advisory Board of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health, The Men's Health Network, Fertile Hope and is on the Board of Directors of the Society of Male Reproduction and Urology. He is also President of the American Society of Andrology and President of the Northern California Urology Society and is an Editorial Board member of several journals including Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine, the International Journal of Men's Health and the International Brazilian Journal of Urology.