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Why Don’t I Have Any Sperm?

Professor Allan Pacey explains why 1% of men don't produce sperm and the lab techniques used to try and help them to start a family.

 

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Transcript

0:02 Unfortunately some men will not have any sperm.
0:06 We think that about 1% of men in the general population
0:11 don't produce sperm and that's probably because of a genetic condition that they
0:15 have or it may on some occasions be due to some previous cancer treatment or
0:20 medical therapy that's caused that to happen. If a man doesn't have sperm
0:26 it can be quite distressing clearly if he wants to try for a baby. In some
0:31 instances we are able to find a small number of sperm
0:35 by taking a piece of tissue from his testicle and looking at it under the
0:41 microscope and an embryologist will hunt around in that tissue to
0:46 find sperm because although a man may not ejaculate sperm he may still
0:51 produce a few that never make it to the outside world. If we're successful in
0:55 finding sperm through that route then that opens up the opportunity for him to
1:01 use those sperm with his partner and for those sperm to be injected into his
1:05 partners eggs using a technique that we call ICSI. Unfortunately, if we don't find
1:11 any sperm using that route then really the only option that's available to that
1:15 man is to consider using the sperm from a donor to fertilise the eggs from his
1:22 partner. That may or may not be acceptable to him
1:26 the donor could be a family friend, it could be somebody that's known to him or it
1:30 could be a donor that's anonymous to him and his partner at
1:34 that point. Although any children born would have access to identifying
1:39 information about that donor when they get to the age of 18.
1:42 What we hope is that in the future we might be better able to make sperm
1:48 for men and there has been some real advances in stem cell technology over
1:53 the last few years particularly in experimental animals such as mice.
1:57 We can take stem cells either from the testicle or from other parts of the
2:04 man's body and in quite sophisticated laboratory conditions we can actually
2:09 stimulate them, some of the time, to grow
2:12 into rudimentary sperm. Now we're not quite there with humans,
2:17 we haven't quite got to the stage where we can routinely make sperm from the
2:23 man's own stem cells but my hope would be that in the next five or ten years
2:28 that that may well become possible and if that does become the case then the
2:34 ability to make sperm for men who don't produce any naturally will revolutionise
2:39 the treatment of men with azoospermia.