Israeli Univ. develops microchip to produce sperm addressing men fertility problem

June 6, 2022 0 By CH Unnikrishnan

Preserving fertility among the children, who undergo aggressive chemotherapy as part of cancer treatment, and treating infertile men, who have testicle defects, have been a serious challenge for medical researchers around the world. However, a new research led by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has now managed to produce an innovative microchip for creating sperm in a culture by using a microfluidic system to address this issue.

The Ben-Gurion research, in collaboration with a team at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, published in Biofabrication journal, has succeeded in creating an innovative platform that improves the process of creating sperm in a laboratory through a microfluidic system using a silicon chip (PDMS).

The innovative system was successfully tested using young mice that contain primary germ cells that develop to form sperm and supporting testicular cells. Long-term culture was tested and after 5-7 weeks, seminiferous tube-like structures containing advanced-stage cells (ROUND SPERMATID) in the process of sperm formation were observed. Now, the research group is preparing for the next phase of applying the experiment to cells from humans.

Young mice that do not yet produce sperm cells are a model that imitates the growth of sperm cells in the testicle. Under laboratory conditions, it was possible to develop a procedure for culturing testicular cells in an environment very close to the natural environment (in terms of the structure of the sperm tubes and the cells that make them up). Using a special chip designed for the study, a complete 3D system was built, containing microfluidic channels that allow the addition of growth factors, cells from the testicles, or any other cells from the tissues of the body.

“This study opens up a new horizon in the process of creating sperm cells in a culture,” says Prof. Mahmoud Huleihel from the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics, in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.  

“It enables the implementation of microfluidic-based technologies in future therapeutic strategies for infertile men and in the preservation of fertility for children undergoing aggressive chemotherapy/radiotherapy treatments that may impair their fertility in puberty. In addition, this system may also serve as an innovative platform for examining the effect of drugs and toxins on male fertility,” added Prof. Huleihel in a recent University statement.

This study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and in collaboration with the Chinese Foundation for Natural Sciences (NSFC) (ISF-NSFC), the Reproduction Hub at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Council for Higher Education Scholarships for outstanding PhD students from the Ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations. The university’s tech transfer company– BGN Technologies– owns a registered  patent on this discovery.