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Scientists have created early stage sperm cells from the skin of men with a genetic defect that makes them infertile.
Scientists believe in the long-term future the technique may bring new hope to men genetically unable to generate sperm.
The process saw the skin samples from three men effectively sent backwards through the developmental process until they assumed the properties of embryonic stem cells - which can grow into virtually any kind of body tissue.
Dr Reijo Pera, lead researcher from Stanford University in the US, said his team's breakthrough might mean it is possible in future to "transplant stem-cell-derived germ cells directly into the testes of men with problems producing sperm".
British scientists have discovered an elusive protein that forms an essential part of human fertilisation.
The molecule, named Juno after the Roman goddess of fertility, allows eggs and sperm to join together.
It may now be used by scientists to improve fertility treatments and develop new contraceptives.
"We have solved a long-standing mystery in biology by identifying the molecules displayed on all sperm and egg that must bind each other at the moment we were conceived," said lead researcher Dr Gavin Wright, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire.
"Without this essential interaction, fertilisation just cannot happen," he added, writing in the journal Nature.
Fertility expert Dr Allan Pacey, from University of Sheffield, described the finding as "very exciting".
The Family Planning Association has said women should not "panic" over their ability to conceive as they reach their thirties.
Spokeperson Natika Halil, told the Daily Telegraph:
Fertility doesn’t just disappear overnight. While women should be mindful, let’s not panic – you don’t wake up at 34 and suddenly discover you can’t have kids. There are a myriad of reasons why women can’t conceive, it’s not always linked to age.
The comments came as England's Chief Medical Officer expressed concern about the number of women choosing to postpone motherhood until their late 30s and early 40s.
England's Chief Medical Officer has voiced concern about the number of women choosing to delay motherhood until their late 30s and early 40s, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Professor Dame Sally Davies reportedly told a group of health professionals on Thursday:
“The steady shift to have children later, there are issues with that. We all assume we can have children later but actually we may not be able to.
Prof Dame Sally added that she was “lucky” to have had two children in her 40s.
However, she also emphasised that she was not suggesting women should have children earlier, saying “It’s not for me to tell women what to do".
The chief medical officer's comments come as figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 1 in 5 women now reach the age of 45 without having children.
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