A group of scientists led by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has managed to produce an innovative microchip for creating sperm in culture by using a microfluidic system. According to the team of scientists, children with cancer who receive aggressive chemotherapy may become infertile in the future. The scientists in collaboration with a research group at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have 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). Their research was published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Biofabrication.
According to the Prof. Mahmoud Huleihel, from the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Genetics, in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, there was a need to find a method of producing sperm cells in the laboratory, so that it bypasses limitations such as the potential return of cancer cells to the patient’s body.
While conducting the study the scientists discovered that young mice that do not yet produce sperm cells are a model that imitates the growth of sperm cells in the testicle. Moreover, under laboratory conditions, it was possible to develop a procedure for culturing testicular cells in an environment very close to the natural environment. 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. 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,” says Prof. Huleihel.
The research group included: Prof. Emeritus Eitan Lunenfeld, from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka Medical Center, currently a senior faculty member at Ariel University and Prof. Gilad Yossifon, from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion (currently a faculty member from the School of Mechanical Engineering at Tel Aviv University). The research was led by PhD students Ali AbuMadighem, from the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Sholom Shuchat from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.