US medi-boffins believe they may have developed a new way of obtaining potentially useful stem cells, which could be key to a range of therapies in future. The catch is that they plan to harvest the basic material from human testicles.
Stem cell research is considered one of the more exciting fields in medicine at the moment. It uses the body's basic "master," or stem cells, which can at least theoretically be made to produce any other type of cell. This might allow injured or wasted tissues to be healed, or perhaps even permit failed or degraded organs to be replaced. Many of the hazards of conventional transplant therapy might so be avoided, as the new tissue could be genetically identical to that of the patient, if her (or in this case, his) stem cells were used.
According to Reuters, Dr Shahin Rafii (of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) is pioneering the new bollock-based stem cell production methods.
It seems the ballsy boffin and his team "found a way to easily pick the cells out from other tissue in the testicles". Such dexterity is all the more impressive - not to say eye-watering - when you consider that thus far they have been working with the testicles of mice rather than men.
Reuters says that "Rafii... is starting work now to find the same cells in humans".
He'll have to find some humans that'll stand still first, we submit. Still, the good doctor seems confident.
"It appears that these unique specialised spermatogonial cells could be an easily-obtained and manipulated source of stem cells with exactly the same capability to form new tissues that we see in embryonic stem cells."
That could be a win, particularly in America, as President Bush is against the use of stem cells taken from human embryos (though his Republican chum Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governator of California, is a strong stem cell proponent).
It seems that men - and perhaps genetically-matching female blood relatives of theirs - could soon have access to brand new vat-grown tissues and organs. Boffins reckon that "spermatogonial progenitor cells" harvested from yarbles should be able to do the business "well into advanced age".
Think of it - a lovely new set of kidneys and liver once yours are all worn out. All that's needed is (chaps of sensitive disposition skip this) a small little sample of flesh from the testicles.
On second thought, perhaps it's time to reform the old lifestyle a bit before the doc starts polishing up his sample-picker probe.
Full details from Reuters here. ®
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