Researchers Say They’re Halfway There To Artificially Producing Sperm

Scientist Azim Surani talked to the Progress Educational Trust annual conference in London this past month to share the results of his latest study.

The study, which is currently being reviewed for publication in a journal, followed Surani’s research team as they tried to produce an artificial sperm and eggs.

Surani was also pleased to share that the study went well and that they have progressed farther than anyone else in the process of making a sperm and egg.

As The Guardian reports, Surani says that his team was able to make it to the halfway point on the path of human stem cells turning into immature sperm/eggs. In order to do this, Surani’s team has tracked that path of human cells starting out the same and then branching off into sperm and eggs at around eight weeks.

“With this goal in mind, the team has developed miniature artificial testicles, called gonadal organoids, which comprise a blob of gonadal cells (also grown in the lab) suspended in gel. The mixture of cell types seems to be providing some of the right biochemical cues to propel the cells further down the path to becoming sperm.”

Despite being about halfway through the path process and understanding the complexities of it more than anyone else before, Surani says that they still have a long way to go.

On top of that, the extreme risks that any real life application of these artificial eggs and sperm is making Surani’s team continue on as slowly and carefully as possible.

“If this was ever going to be used in a clinical setting we have to be sure that it has gone through all the right stages – all of these steps are incredibly important,” said Surani, “You can make an egg that looks like an egg, but it might not be the right cell in molecular detail. You could get a lot of problems with that. You don’t want something that’s going to grow into some kind of abnormal structure.”

As for those real life applications, the eventual completion of this artificial sperm and egg process could mean a lot for people who can’t have children on their own.

Straight men and women who are infertile can produce using this science, but more importantly (for this site) the same can be said for same-sex couples.

“Two men could potentially have a baby that was genetically related to both by using skin cells from one to make an egg and cells from the other to make the sperm.”

With gay divorcees losing custody battles because the children aren’t biologically related to them, this could turn the tide towards building a firmer structure for gay parents.

That said, Surani says that they are at least ten years away from completing the research, so we all still have some time to wait on it.

New Antibody Attacks 99% of HIV Strains

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Scientists have created a new antibody that not only recognizes and fights 99% of HIV strains, but early tests are also showing its ability to prevent infection.

This new antibody is the work of both the US National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

Together, the two groups have released the results of a study they’ve been conducting with the antibody.

To understand the way the antibody works you have to first understand that the real problem for treating HIV is.

HIV is ever changing. HIV’s composition can change and mutate constantly and these varying HIV “strains” makes it hard to combat the disease. If you target one strain, there will be an insurmountable amount of varying strains still standing in its place.

That said, throughout the decades there have been cases of people naturally developing what’s called “broadly neutralizing antibodies” that are able to kill several different kinds of HIV strains.

Scientists from both the US National Institutes of Health and the company Sanofi have combined samples of these anitbodies into what they call the “tri-specific antibody” and have developed it to attack three critical parts of the virus.

Scientists and researchers around the globe are celebrating the discovery and praising those involved.

Dr. Gary Nabel / Image via Nih Record

Prof Linda-Gail Bekker, the president of the International Aids Society, told the BBC News:

 "This paper reports an exciting breakthrough.”

"These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date.”

"It's early days yet, and as a scientist I look forward to seeing the first trials get off the ground in 2018.”

"As a doctor in Africa, I feel the urgency to confirm these findings in humans as soon as possible."

In addition, Dr Gary Nabel, the chief scientific officer for Sanofi, also spoke to BBC about the antibody, "They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that's been discovered."

"We're getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody," said Dr Nabel.

The bulk of the earlier study was administered on 24 monkeys, with none of the ones who received the tri-specific antibodies getting infected with HIV, but now that that study was a success clinical studies on humans can commence sometime next year.