A Japanese-U.S. team today reported the successful creation of transgenic animals using sperm genetically modified and grown in a laboratory dish, an achievement with implications for a wide range of research from developmental biology to gene therapy.
In their study, to be published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of Jan. 26-30, researchers from Fukui Prefectural University in Obama, Japan, and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), describe the innovative techniques they used to produce genetically modified zebrafish using sperm cells grown under laboratory, or in vitro, conditions.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time that sperm cells have been cultured entirely in vitro and used to produce a transgenic animal. It was a unique challenge that required creative solutions,” said Shawn Burgess, Ph.D., an investigator in NHGRI’s Genome Technology Branch and a co-author of the study.
Although further refinement and testing is needed, Dr. Burgess said the new techniques have the potential to speed the production of many different types of transgenic animal models that will shed new light on human development and disease. The sperm culturing system will allow researchers to further explore the basic biology of sperm production in vertebrates. The findings also may prove helpful to researchers exploring pre-fertilization strategies for human gene therapy, thus allowing preventive treatment for certain genetic disorders, Dr. Burgess said.
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
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