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Award-winning urologist - and pioneer in Men's Health - Dr. Paul Turek blogs weekly about issues such as infertility, vasectomy and vasectomy reversal, sexual and hormonal dysfunction and more. Keep up with the latest on this fascinating field of medicine.

The Artificial Testicle: Funded!



Photo of a Whole Earth Catalog from the 1960s. The old Google
Whole Earth Catalog: the old Google, according to Steve Jobs

It is the stuff of dreams in academic medicine: an NIH (National Institutes of Health) research grant. Get one of these and you’re pretty much assured of getting tenure and succeeding at any major U.S. university. It is the ultimate stamp of approval from the government and society that your thoughts and ideas have merit and value.

And I was just awarded one!

NIH Funds the Artificial Testicle

Yes, the federal grant that we submitted recently to build a human artificial testicle was funded.  To be clear, this grant is not about creating a testicular implant for a man who is missing a real one. We did that a decade or so ago. This award is to develop a sperm making biological machine. I wrote it along with Dr. Connie John, CEO at MandalMed, Inc., a biotechnology company in the Bay Area. We now have a couple of years to create human artificial sperm in a dish, or more formally, a “bioreactor.” A fancy dish to be sure.

You’ve seen the posts on how successful this research has been in mice models using various stem cells as a starting point: embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and early germ line (spermatogonial) stem cells. In labs all over the world, real, live, fertile sperm have been made in animal models from each of these stem cell precursors. Honestly, given this success over the past several years, surely we can figure out how to do the same in humans.

Why Do I Need NIH Funding?

Funny thing is, I am not in academic medicine anymore. No tenure to deal with and no need to prove anything to anyone but myself and to legions of loyal patients who depend on cutting edge innovation for their infertility care. Personally, feeling the suffering of patients with infertility is far more motivating than doing science for the sake of science, or for the sake of tenure.

Not to compare myself to Steve Jobs in any way, but I can’t help think one of his favorite mottos from the Whole Earth Catalog. This is what guided him in his quest to build a better computer for everyone: “Stay hungry; stay foolish.” It feels absolutely fabulous to be able to dream it, write it and finally to do it. The essence of science for the good of people.

Press Release

Effort to Build Artificial Testicle Awarded NIH Grant

Released: 1/9/2012 1:45 PM EST
Source: The Turek Clinic

Proposal to make human sperm from stem cells receives government funding

Newswise — SAN FRANCISCO, CA. January 9, 2012. Dr. Paul Turek, Director and Founder of The Turek Clinic, a men’s health medical practice, and Dr. Constance John, chief executive of MandalMed, Inc, a San Francisco-based biotech company, were recently awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to construct an artificial human testicle and research how sperm are made from stem cells.

“Fertile sperm can be made from various stem cells in mice, but making human sperm from these same sources has been elusive,” says Turek, a practicing male infertility specialist in San Francisco. In this project, they will try to produce mature human sperm in a live laboratory model of a human testicle.

This work extends on previously published research by Dr. Turek on human testicular stem cells, the forerunners of sperm. Dr. John is an expert on human Sertoli cells, which critically nurture sperm as they develop in the testicle. “This grant is quite an honor and comes after several years working together on this idea,” notes Turek. “We have assembled a great group of scientists who are very committed to its success.”

A functioning artificial testicle has important implications for the field of reproductive biology. It could shed enormous light on the intricate details behind the mysterious and complicated process of spermatogenesis or sperm production. Even further, it could be used to later develop patient-specific, fertile sperm for men who simply do not make sperm due to genetic or acquired causes.

About Paul Turek, MD
Paul Turek, MD is founder of The Turek Clinic and a former professor and endowed chair at the University of California San Francisco. As a men’s reproductive health expert, he has pioneered innovative techniques for treating male infertility, including Testicular Mapping. In addition to his appointment to the Cooperative Reproductive Network Advisory Board, Dr. Turek sits on the Advisory Board for the Men’s Health Network, Fertile Hope and is President-Elect of the Society of Male Reproduction and Urology. He is Chief Medical Officer at MandalMed, Inc, and is also Past-President of the American Society of Andrology and of the Northern California Urology Society and is an Editorial Board member of several journals including Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine, the Asian Journal of Andrology and the International Brazilian Journal of Urology.

A complete biography of Dr. Turek is available on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_J._Turek.

About The Turek Clinic
The Turek Clinic, founded in 2008, is a men’s reproductive health practice specializing in male infertility, vasectomy, vasectomy reversal, varicocele repair, and other minimally invasive procedures using innovative and cutting-edge techniques. For more information, visit www.TheTurekClinic.com, www.TurekVasectomy.com, or Dr. Turek’s blog (here).

About MandalMed, Inc.
MandalMed is a privately held biotechnology company located in San Francisco- the home of more bioscience companies than any other region in the world. MandalMed’s mission is to develop pharmaceutical products of worldwide significance. Areas where there is a great need for better treatments, including cancer and neurological conditions, are the targets of MandalMed’s research and development programs. For more information, see www.MandalMed.com.


86 Responses to “The Artificial Testicle: Funded!”

  1. Artificial testicle could treat male infertility | All Health News

    [...] a newly received government grant, Turek and his fellow researchers hope to develop a human  “sperm-making biological machine,” he [...]

    Reply
  2. Artificial testicle could treat male infertility | Health Care

    [...] a newly received government grant, Turek and his fellow researchers hope to develop a human  “sperm-making biological machine,” he [...]

    Reply
  3. Artificial testicle could treat male infertility |

    [...] a newly received government grant, Turek and his fellow researchers hope to develop a human “sperm-making biological machine,” he [...]

    Reply
  4. Artificial Testicle Could Treat Male Infertility (LiveScience.com) @ fbcheat.com

    [...] a newly received government grant, Turek and his fellow researchers hope to develop a human “sperm-making biological machine,” he [...]

    Reply
  5. Artificial Testicle, World’s First To Make Sperm, Under Development By California Scientists | Inside First

    [...] a newly received government grant, Turek and his fellow researchers hope to develop a human “sperm-making biological machine,” he [...]

    Reply
  6. Artificial testicle could treat male infertility | Hot Health News

    [...] a newly perceived supervision grant, Turek and his associate researchers wish to rise a human  “sperm-making biological machine,” he [...]

    Reply
  7. El testículo artificial americano | Biblioteca Sexual

    [...] Así pues, el Dr. Paul Turek, director de la Clínica Turek, en San Francisco, quiere marcar un hito histórico al dar el salto a los humanos partiendo de las pruebas realizadas en ratones, aprovechando -junto con MandalMed Inc- un galardón concedida por el National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH) del gobierno de los EEUU, y crear lo que en su página web denominan como una máquina biológica de producción de esperma. [...]

    Reply
      • Paul Turek, MD

        Dear Hope. We continue to, like you, have hope that the lab grown testicle will be completed. There has been a lot of news recently with our AUA presentation and the like. Will keep you informed here.

        Reply
        • Don

          Will the artificial testicle work as an implant? Do you need a test subject? If so, where do I sign up? I’m serious. Thanks.

          Reply
  8. ANKA

    Mr. Thurek.
    Please! please! please! please!
    Help! Help! Help!
    Please help to azoospermia.
    Be fast and please

    Reply
  9. Asho

    Dr. Turkey, My husband is diagnosted Sertoli Cell Sydrome. We are married 10 years and no child yet………. please please help

    I am worry after few years my eggs get expired. thanks

    Reply
  10. H

    please I’m sure a lot of men all over the world including me needing this

    and hope it can release testosterone by taking materials already in the blood and make chemical reaction and produce it naturally, like artificial heart or something

    I’m an engineer and really thinking about making this and dedicate the rest of my life for making this even if I will have to study bio-chemistry and pay all the money I have, I’m not married I guess no one will care about me, so I’m thinking of full dedication

    please its the mans worst dream to have his testicles removed

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Dear someone, you are not alone. I see this artificial sperm-making testicle as the first step. Testosterone producing cells may also be possible down the line. The ability of this research to help reproductive age men in many ways is certainly part of my dream and the solitary goal of this research.

      Reply
      • egxer

        Thanks Dr Paul for your amazing work, I’m 22 years old male, I’m in a bad condition with my testicle, it became very swollen after varicocele, and then I took alphintern, it kept reducing its size, and not stopping, even I stopped alphintern, I made doppler and ultrasound three days ago,

        it showed epididymo-orchitis

        now after three days its getting even smaller
        its totally numb since its swollen and still

        can it be saved Dr, please help me I don’t have a good doctor here

        otherwise I’ll have to buy your amazing invention in future :)

        Reply
        • Paul Turek, MD

          Dear Egxer, Obviously, although I would like to, it is impossible to give care over the internet. Feel free to call the office at 415-392-3200 and maybe I can help find good care for you where you are located.

          Reply
  11. Atif

    Dear Dr Turek,

    You’ve probably been asked this question hundred’s of times but I was diagnosed with sertoil only cell syndrome and me a my wife have been married for 5 years. I wish to know how advanced are we with this research and will the day come when clnical trails be available.
    I am 31 and my wife is 29 at the moment, will this be available for us???
    Are their any other treatments which will be available in the near future??

    Thank You Kindly,
    Atif

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Atif, assuming that you have had a thorough investigation for pockets of sperm with mapping or microdissection and either has failed, then I would say that it will be 5-7 years before patient-specific artificial sperm can be safely made for humans. I know that seems like a long time, but science needed to learn the basics of stem cells to be able to move this field forward.

      Reply
  12. kj

    hi dr. paul turek…..
    i’m korean man Who lost both testicles
    i wonder
    this artifitial testicle(you are making) can make testosterone hormon??
    or that only producing sperm??
    if you give me answer
    i’m very thank you
    god bless you!

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      KJ, at this point, everyone’s goal is to make sperm. However, what we learn from this process will certainly help us work out some of the details of the other half of testis function–male hormone production.

      Reply
  13. MT

    Hello Dr Turek,
    Is your FNA mapping and MR Spectroscopy technique available out of US ? (in europe to be precise)

    I was diagnosed with N.O. azoospermia , had 6 biopsy and found very low sperm count (in 2 out of 6 biopsy) with a succesfull pregnancy.
    But now i want to try again but i am afraid of loosing too much testes material with biopsy.

    Thanks

    MT

    Reply
  14. MIke

    I am hoping or should I say praying that your research can lead to the success of creating sperm. I recently went under the knife to find out that i make absolutely no Sperm due to a micro-deletion in Y chromosome. We are going to move forward with a Donor, However I would be first in-line within the next few years to have my own child.
    So keep up your good work and give other men like myself a fighting chance and possibly give me a chance to see my own offspring.

    best of luck and god bless you!!!

    Reply
  15. pshtiwan

    dear doctor,
    can we freeze my wife”s eggs in a clinic in Kurdistan (northern Iraq) until the time artificial testicle clinically will be used?

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Sure, egg freezing is elected by many couples to preserve their fertility potential. However, no guarantee is possible regarding when man made sperm will become available…

      Reply
  16. GKC

    Dr Turek is at the forefront of sperm retrieval and now creation. Keep the desire to succeed and in doing so provide an opportunity for men like us whom come to your wonderful clinic with the chance of providing offspring for our wives.

    God bless you and your dedicated team. We travelled across the world and it was worth every second of it, if but to have another chance at parenthood.

    Reply
  17. Adam

    This is wonderful news! I hope it comes soon. I’m going to have a child this upcoming year from donor sperm, and I will love it, it is mine, I am its father. But to be able to have my own DNA child… I’ve read stories on other boards where even though the child is raised a certain way, the mother in particular is surprised when certain traits from the father aren’t shared, no matter how well you try for that donor sperm to match the father. I would love to have multiple children (who I hope to love the same) but I really want to be able to pass on my genes. This is great. I second the post below me. HURRY HURRY HURRY please. Don’t lose the fire. We are counting on you! :)

    Reply
  18. Keneth

    Which hospital can I go for investigation of my sperm quality.

    Reply
  19. JR

    Hello doctor. When do you think that the skin cells used to convert to stem cells to create sperm cells experimentation will begin to be conducted on humans. I will come out to San Francisco for any reasearch. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      JR, thanks for the offer. When the time comes to enroll subjects in this study, I will certainly let you know! Currently, skin cells are routinely converted to adult pluripotent stem cells. We just don’t know if these manufactured stem cells can become sperm.

      Reply
  20. JR

    When will you and/or scientists know if the skin cells can become sperm? Will it take a few years or shorter? Are other means (i.e. bone marrow, etc) being tested to see if they can become sperm cells? Thank you.

    Reply
  21. Jessie K

    Dr. T,
    I am praying your research goes well and with god speed. My husband was born with no testicles and currently has implants.. We have a little laugh that someday they might be able to use his DNA… And now we follow you not laughing anymore. God bless!

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Krish, this work confirms earlier work that my colleagues at Stanford published in 2010 or so. These new findings come from a good group that is doing good work. However, their findings are similar to what’s been published before: you can take embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells and only push them so far down the germ line sequence of 13 stages in a dish. They go about half way and stop. It appears that a more “natural” environment is needed to go the distance and to make a sperm. We are hoping that our artificial testicle is just that place.

      Reply
  22. JR

    Then how come the articles state that the group went the farthest so far and created round spermatids, the precursors to sperm? And how come the research is deemed a breakthrough if it was done before? It also states the group believes it went past the most critical step in developing sperm and that making mature sperm is the next step. Thanks.

    Reply
  23. Hope

    Dear Dr. Turek,

    As a mother of a toddler affected by Anorchia. These are GREAT, FANTASTIC, AMAZING news!!!
    My son as you know was born with undescended testicles and unreadable levels of testosterone, which means he has to be on Testosterone Replacement Therapy for the rest of his life since puberty.

    THANK YOU for your hard work, for bringing hope to me and many others who live without testicles and CONGRATULATIONS on the grant. My son is a patient at NIH and my family and I absolutely love them.

    I am crying non-stop ever since I learned about this because I really wished for a group of scientist to start working on creating testicles in the lab to make the dream of being a parent a reality for my son and many other men out there that can’t have biological children. Also, to think that it might be possible for them to produce testosterone naturally, again…It’s just HUGE.

    I know it’s a long road ahead but please know that you have a lot of good energy heading your way from many people and I am sure that the Muses are already flying around the lab. :)

    God bless you.

    Reply
  24. ana

    Thank you for the work and research you are doing. My son, 6 y/o has Anorchia. He has not had any implants, would you recommend getting them soon or waiting? We would be interested in any research when the time comes. We banked his younger brothers stem cells in the hopes one day they could be used to help. If there is anything I can do to help my son, please let me know.

    I phones, I pads, etc… are fun, but they don’t change my son’ s life, your and your colleges research can, so thank you again.

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      thank you Ana, we are very motivated and this encouragement motivates us further. Regarding your son, you could consider placing small testis implants now and then changing them up at age 12-14 to normal adult sized ones.

      Reply
  25. JR

    The picture of the artificial testicle machine looks great. Are we closing in on human sperm production from adult stem (skin) cells, etc., which will enable the artificial sperm to have our genes? At the conference, you say “I hope we can make sperm before I die,” so I am worried that it may take a long time. I am praying the machine will help us infertile men soon to have 1 genetic and viable sperm. How close are we and when can trials begin for extremely unfortunate men like myself? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      JR, we are trying as hard as our little minds are letting us. Continue to have hope.

      Reply
  26. Jr

    Because of the intelligent, hard working, innovative physicians like yourself, I thank the heavens I do have real hope in the near future. Also is the Japanese group that created the viable mouse sperm working on humans to do the same thing? Thanks for doing this work and as you know, compared to most humans, your mind has to be quite large and powerful.

    Reply
  27. pshtiwan

    Dear doctor Turek ,
    The science says that the process of spermatogenesis needs an environment, like the testicles, to complete all the necessary steps. And to provide such an environment you are trying to build an artificial testicle. That is a great job indeed especially for those without testicles. But here a question rise concerning men who have testicles but no spermatogonial stem cells (sertoli cell only syndrome) – is it not possible to implant early sperm cells -which can be created from bone marrow or skin stem cells- into patient’s testicle to restore sperm production rather than in an artificial testicle?

    Best regards

    Reply
  28. Wade

    Dr Turek

    Have there been any studies on testicular tissue grafting in humans? Do you think this would be a feasible idea to “jump start” sperm production naturally?

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Wade, testicular tissue “grafting” is probably the leading way that we will be using in the future with stem cells to restore sperm production in men who are sterile. It’s really the perfect “home” environment to make a sperm and is technically quite doable. There are risks, though. For example, if you miss injecting the cells into the empty testis tubules and load them into spaces outside of them, will cancer develop? There may be groups trying this around the world but I am not familiar with any researchers or clinicians doing this safely in the U.S. at the moment.

      Reply
  29. Sara

    Hi Dr. Turek,

    I wondered if you had any new updates on how man made sperm can be made. Do you know if you can produce sperm with testicular germ cells? I understand that you did not think you could with adult stem cells, but has this been ruled out yet? Where should we go to find updates on the latest developments?

    Reply
    • Sarah

      Dr. Turek,

      Any new news as to how your research regarding the production of sperm from stem cells?

      Reply
      • Paul Turek, MD

        Sarah, Sure. See my comment under the blog post “Imagine a World without Male Infertility.”

        Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Keep the hope alive. No news yet. Consider freezing your partners eggs in advance of the technology so that advanced maternal age issues don’t become a problem over time.

      Reply
  30. Stefan

    Can you tell me how many years you think it will come to life? Please hurry up, you have so many candidates for that procedure

    Reply
  31. Liz

    This sounds like very exciting news. My husband and I have been married for 5 years. I am 31 and my husband is 34. My husband has had a biopsy and still no joy, with a slightly raised fsh. Is there anything you can do to help? I am worried that i am getting older. Please keep up the good work

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Liz, a biopsy is not the whole story. Read more about mapping as sperm can exist in islands in testicles and these islands can be all you need to conceive.

      Reply
  32. ahmad

    Hi Dr Turek

    I had a unsuccessful FNA mapping done with you about 2 years ago. I was wondering the FNA mapping does it cover all the possible sitein the testicle for finding sperm. Would there be any benefit at looking sst other treatment like sperm hope. A online web company states that by lowering testosterone for a period and increasing it can restart sperm production.

    I have requested this 6 month treatment and only willing to try it as it’s not harmful.

    Thank

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Hello Ahmad, I hope this finds you well. No, mapping does not cover all the possible sites in the testicle. Nor does any other currently available technology, including microdissection TESE. However it is good, as I now have 56 cases of men who have pursued other means of “looking” for sperm after negative FNA maps and, as far as I know, none have found it. That is a 2% false negative rate. I have not seen ANY success with Sperm Hope.

      Reply
  33. ahmad

    Ok thank you Dr. I might as well give up now. Life is soo cruel sometimes. Keep up the good work and hopefully we can get a cure to help me and many more.

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      The world of science is working hard on this, but I cannot give you a hard and fast timeline. Consider freezing your eggs while you are young. If the technology comes of age, you can use it with more robust eggs at IVF.

      Reply
  34. walid

    Mr. Turek. please I need your help I had done testicular biopsy in both testes and there is only few primary spermatids is there is hope to find treatment in your clinic? please help me thanks allot.

    Reply
    • Paul Turek, MD

      Dear Walid, Be nice to review the actual biopsy slides from the procedure. Because if you had “spermatids” present then the likelihood that there are mature sperm nearby if you look hard enough is high. However if you had “primary spermatocytes” indicating early maturation arrest, then the chance of finding sperm on mapping is less.

      Reply
      • walid

        Dear Dr.turek thanks for answering my question I had done TESE and two biopsies was taken from right and left testes and the result was patent testicular tubes with no significant sclerosis .the tubules are populated by germ cells mainly primary spermatocytes. Rare spermatids are noted but no definite mature spermatozoa are identified .stromal leydig cellsare within normal.this was done more than 5 years but I was done semen analysis 1 year ago and the result was only two immotile abnormal sperm? please dear doctor can you help me?I am very depressed .Thanks allot.

        Reply
        • Paul Turek, MD

          Walid, I would repeat my idea of setting up a Second Opinion with us and sending the biopsy slides for re-review to see if “rare spermatids” are found. If this is true along with the fact that you have “two immotile sperm” in your ejaculate, this means that somewhere within your testicles, sperm are being made!

          Reply

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