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Aurora magazine

Spermatozoa and artificial wombs in the future of the PMA

In recent years, scientists are developing increasingly advanced techniques for PMA (Medically Assisted Reproduction). Unless you have recourse to a donor, today it is still necessary for those concerned to be able to produce sperm and ova. In the future, this could change, thanks to the creation of sperm and oocytes in the laboratory.

Last year the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology announced a first step in this direction. Researchers used embryonic stem cells to produce healthy spermatozoa. The result was a litter of healthy, lively babies, conceived through in vitro fertilization.

The experiment showed how to obtain germ cells from embryonic stem cells, thanks to a cocktail of drugs and hormones. A process also applicable to adult pluripotent stem cells, which mimic embryonic stem cells. The experiments conducted on mice have given excellent results. The next step will be the monkeys, before moving on to humans.

A result of this kind was also obtained from Kyushu University researchers, on oocytes however. Scientists have in fact transformed pluripotent stem cells induced into healthy oocytes. Some of these turned out to be fertile, allowing us to conceive a new healthy litter.

Finally, US researchers have developed an artificial uterus, designed especially for premature babies. It is in fact a plastic bag full of a fluid that mimics the amniotic fluid. The fetus is attached to an artificial placenta, which supplies it with oxygen and nutrients. The method would facilitate the development of premature babies and would be much more effective than normal incubators

Perhaps in the future technology will open the doors of motherhood even to women with malformations of this organ. Before seeing such a thing, however, much research will still be needed.