|| DukeMedNews || Insight into Sperm Growth

Background: In a discovery that may help answer the eternal riddle of how an amorphous sac of stem cells in testes gives rise to sperm, Duke scientists have found a cell component that appears to guide potent reproductive cells to both self-renew and make mature differentiated cells. The finding, in the common fruit fly, may help explain how men continuously produce sperm, and why some stem cells in testicles and other parts of the body lose control, forming cancerous tumors.

Duke cell biologist Haifan Lin and his colleagues believe the cell structure or “organelle” orchestrates the formation of mature eggs from the progenitor stem cells in flies. This organelle, which Lin dubbed the “spectrosome,” appears to direct and help determine which cells remain stem cells and which become mature eggs by a process believed to be analogous to human sperm production.

Suggested lead: The formation of sex cells in flies may not sound very exciting. But a researcher at Duke University says his discovery of how they form could answer questions about cancer, infertility and anemia. Melinda Stubbee explains.


In Cut 1, Lin says his discovery was made by studying stem cells, which are potent cells thought to produce most of the specialized cells in the body, yet remain unchanged themselves. Perhaps as few as a couple of dozen stem cells, for example, give rise to all the varieties of white blood cells that constitute the immune system. Researchers estimate stem cells form or maintain up to 90 percent of the tissues in our bodies. Yet how these immortal cells work is one of the enduring mysteries of biology.

Cut 1…doing right things…:20 (Preview this in a AIFF or WAV file in 8 bit mono. For the full interview in high quality ISDN sound, call the newsline.

Lin says abnormal division of stem cells is also responsible for many forms of cancer, Mutations in germ stem cells in testicles account for some forms of testicular tumor formation, according to Lin. He believes an understanding of stem cell division and coordination will lead to a better understanding of the controls on cell growth and why some stem cells lose control to form cancers.

Cut 2…or infertility…:21 (Preview this in a AIFF or WAV file in 8 bit mono. For the full interview in high quality ISDN sound, call the newsline.