In a pair of world-firsts, the team of researchers, led by Flannigan, used a 3D printer to create viable testicular cells and identified early signs of sperm-producing capabilities. The most severe form of male infertility is called non-obstructive azoospermia or NOA. “It is a production problem in the testicle, where there is no sperm that is coming out into the ejaculate,” explained Dr. Jesse Ory, assistant professor of urology at Dalhousie University. “Men often won’t know because the volume in their ejaculate is often normal. But when you do a semen test, you don’t see any sperm in the ejaculate fluid.” “We can attempt something called microscopic testicular sperm extraction,” explained Lo, “We open up the testes under a microscope and look for areas where we could potentially find sperm. It’s really a last resort for these patients the success at best is 50 per cent.” “We got to the middle stage of sperm production,” Flannigan explained. Now, the goal is to “Coach” the printed cells into producing sperm. If successful, the sperm could be used to fertilize an egg through in vitro or IVF, giving more men the chance at becoming biological fathers.
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