SPCs lie within a specific area of the testes and their sole function is to generate the precursors to sperm. "Normally, the spermatogonial progenitor cell is committed to only that function, and they're remarkably efficient, keeping men fertile well into advanced age," notes the study's lead author, Dr. Marco Seandel, researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and researcher/medical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Seandel provided the first real breakthrough in this research, developing the first efficient means of growing large quantities of SPCs for experimental use in the lab.
"That really allowed us to go full steam ahead in examining the potential of these very interesting cells," explains Dr. Rafii.
In their experiments, the Weill Cornell team concocted the perfect in vitro biochemical environment for the SPCs. This included particular helper cell types and growth factors aimed at fostering SPCs development away from creating germ cells and towards what scientists called "multipotency" -- the ability to develop into many different cell types.
Along the way, the team also cleared another hurdle.
"One problem with working with SPCs is that they've been extremely difficult to identify. We discovered that, within the testicular environment, only SPCs express a particular marker called GPR125," Dr. Seandel says. "That's a quantum leap forward in terms of being able to harvest and work with these cells."
Left to "soak" in their specially designed cell culture conditions, SPCs eventually made the change the team was hoping for. They did not develop into germ cells but instead grew to become multi-potent adult spermat
|Contact: Jonathan Weil|
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College