Spermatogenesis involves precise temporal and spatial gene expression and cell signalling to reach a coordinated balance between self-renewal and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells through various germ cell states including mitosis, and meiosis I and II, which result in the generation of haploid cells with a unique genetic identity. Subsequently, these round spermatids undergo a series of morphological changes to shed excess cytoplast, develop a midpiece and tail, and undergo DNA repackaging to eventually form millions of spermatozoa. The goal of recreating this process in vitro has been pursued since the 1920s as a tool to treat male factor infertility in patients with azoospermia. Continued advances in reproductive bioengineering led to successful generation of mature, functional sperm in mice and, in the past 3 years, in humans. Multiple approaches to study human in vitro spermatogenesis have been proposed, but technical and ethical obstacles have limited the ability to complete spermiogenesis, and further work is needed to establish a robust culture system for clinical application.
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