Nature, Vol.471, No.7339, 504-504, 2011
In vitro production of functional sperm in cultured neonatal mouse testes
Spermatogenesis is one of the most complex and longest processes of sequential cell proliferation and differentiation in the body, taking more than a month from spermatogonial stem cells, through meiosis, to sperm formation(1,2). The whole process, therefore, has never been reproduced in vitro in mammals(3-5), nor in any other species with a very few exceptions in some particular types of fish(6,7). Here we show that neonatal mouse testes which contain only gonocytes or primitive spermatogonia as germ cells can produce spermatids and sperm in vitro with serum-free culture media. Spermatogenesis was maintained over 2 months in tissue fragments positioned at the gas-liquid interphase. The obtained spermatids and sperm resulted in healthy and reproductively competent offspring through microinsemination. In addition, neonatal testis tissues were cryopreserved and, after thawing, showed complete spermatogenesis in vitro. Our organ culture method could be applicable through further refinements to a variety of mammalian species, which will serve as a platform for future clinical application as well as mechanistic understanding of spermatogenesis.