Human Testicles Yield Stem Cells

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"It looks like [the cells] have a broader development potential to become a lot of the different cell types we'd be interested in," he added.

"It's very exciting that we may now have a non-ethically troubling source of pluripotent cells for humans—or at least males."

One's Own Cells

The cells, which can be harvested from living men, may also remove some immunological obstacles.

"The exciting thing about this source of stem cells is that they are the patient's own and can be used to develop individual cell-based therapies that will not provoke any kind of immune reaction," Skutella said.

"That is one of the big drawbacks of embryonic stem cells: Quite aside from the grave ethical considerations, they remain a foreign body and will always create immunological problems."

Scientists hope that a similar cell source can be found in women.

Cellular Toolbox

But Skutella cautioned that the research is just a valuable step forward, and scientists must learn how to harness the cells to benefit patients.

Though pluripotent stem cells can be differentiated into any other kind of cell, they can't be implanted in their pluripotent state. They must be differentiated so that they self-renew as only one specific type of cell.

"Stem cell therapy is extremely promising, but it is still in its infancy," Skutella explained.

"You could think of it like this: What we have successfully done right now is identify a mother lode. That ore now needs to be forged into tools, i.e. the various differentiated cell lines," he wrote.

"Then someone needs to figure out how to use those tools to fix what's broken, [that is] to develop concrete therapies."

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