Scientists hope sperm cell breakthrough will diagnose fertility problems
SCIENTISTS have entirely mapped out the genetic code of human sperm cells from a single individual in a breakthrough that could help to treat and detect potential fertility problems.
The discovery also confirms that each individual sperm cell is different from the others, even when it comes from the same man.
The ground-breaking process, known as recombination, mixes up genes passed down by a man’s mother and father and increases genetic diversity.
All of the 91 sperm cells studied showed 23 recombination, or mixing, events on average. But individual sperm varied greatly in the way they experienced spontaneous genetic mutations.
Professor Barry Behr, from Stanford University in California said: “For the first time we were able to generate an individual recombination map and mutation rate for each of several sperm from one person.
“Now we can look at a particular individual, make some calls about what they would likely contribute genetically to an embryo, and perhaps even diagnose or detect potential problems.”
The cells used in this study were donated by a 40-year-old man who has produced healthy offspring and has normally functioning sperm.
Genetically sequencing sperm in this way could mean a “new kind of early detection system” to men who may have trouble conceiving, Professor Behr added.
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