Article image

'Artificial testicles' created in a lab will eventually produce sperm

In a fascinating development, scientists have pioneered the creation of “artificial laboratory testicles,” a breakthrough with the potential to significantly enhance our understanding of sex determination mechanisms and offer new solutions for male infertility.

This innovation, from Dr. Nitzan Gonen and her team at Bar-Ilan University, comes at a crucial time, considering that male infertility affects one in twelve men globally.

Pioneering fertility: The birth of artificial testicles

The essence of this research lies in the development of testis organoids — tiny, artificial organs that mimic the natural function of testicles, including sperm production and testosterone synthesis.

These organoids are cultivated from real mouse testicular cells, marking a significant step forward in the field of reproductive medicine and research.

Historically, the lack of in vitro systems capable of accurately modeling the testis has been a significant barrier in understanding disorders of sex development (DSD) and male infertility.

The creation of these artificial testicles by Dr. Gonen and her students — Aviya Stopel, Cheli Lev, and Stav Dahari — at the Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences and the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, ushers in a new era of possibilities.

The science behind artificial testicles

The research team cultured the artificial testicles from immature testicular cells taken from neonatal mice. The breakthrough moment came when they observed tubule-like structures and a cellular organization within the organoids that closely resembled that of a natural testis.

These structures are akin to the seminiferous tubules in a real testicle, where sperm production occurs.

One of the most promising aspects of this research is the longevity of the organoids in vitro, which were successfully cultured for nine weeks.

This duration is theoretically sufficient for completing the sperm production and hormone secretion processes, which, in mice, takes approximately 34 days. This longevity suggests that these processes could potentially occur in vitro.

While Dr. Gonen remains cautious about whether the model will actually produce sperm cells, early signs of meiosis — the process leading to the production of gametes — have been observed.

Cultivating hope with testicular organoids

This development is crucial as it hints at the organoids’ capability to produce sperm cells, each containing half the number of chromosomes needed for fertilization.

This research also highlights the adaptability of organoids, which typically resemble embryonic-stage organs.

Dr. Gonen’s team has successfully created conditions allowing the organoids to mature, demonstrating that even testicles grown from embryonic cells can develop clear sperm tubes. However, attempts to grow organoids from adult mice testis were not successful.

Dr. Gonen emphasizes the potential of artificial testicles as a model for fundamental research into testicle development and function, with possible therapeutic applications for sexual development disorders and infertility.

The future of this research is particularly promising, with plans to produce organoids using human samples. This could revolutionize fertility treatments, especially for children undergoing cancer treatment, who are unable to produce viable sperm.

By freezing samples from these children, there’s hope that fertile sperm can be grown in vitro, offering a new pathway to parenthood for those affected by infertility.

Artificial testicles: The future of fertility

In summary, Dr. Nitzan Gonen and her team’s pioneering creation of artificial testicles in the laboratory represents a monumental stride in the battle against male infertility, offering new hope to millions of men worldwide.

By successfully mimicking the natural processes of testicular function through organoid technology, this research deepens our understanding of sex determination and reproductive health while offering revolutionary new treatments for men around the world.

As we stand on the brink of potential fertility breakthroughs, the implications of this study extend far beyond the laboratory, promising to transform the lives of individuals and families across the globe, marking a new era in medical science and reproductive health.

The full study was published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day