Stem cells: too early for Fertility Treatment

The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology warns patients that the use of stem cells is not yet effective in fertility treatments

The regenerative power of stem cells applied to fertility problems is, for the moment, far from being a reality. This is what clearly emerges from the study published in the latest edition of the scientific journal Human Reproduction, backed by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).

In view of the interest shown by patients regarding the use of stem cells in assisted reproduction, consensus has been reached by members of the ESHRE special interest group on stem cells, who took part in a joint study led by Dr. Rita Vassena, a member of the executive committee of this European body and Scientific Director at Eugin Clinic.

The study found that “treatments with stem cells for fertility-related disorders are not feasible“; that “today there are no proven therapies based on the use of stem cells aimed at improving or solving reproductive function” and “that there are no proven methods using stem cells which improve reproductive function”.

Experts urge caution in assisted reproduction

“The results of the published study necessitate caution faced with the use of stem cells in fertility treatments, since, in accordance with what was researched, they are unproven,” explains Dr. Vassena. “You have to bear in mind that the cells we use to reproduce – ova and spermatozoa – are very complex, and during the process our body performs many quality controls. Reproducing these very sophisticated steps in vitro is very difficult.” “Currently, we are still studying how to complete the maturation of the gametes – reproductive-cells of a living being, male or female – in vitro and the only effective option for the moment remains in vitro fertilisation, with techniques such as ICSI – based on the selection of the best spermatozoa or egg donation“, she concludes.

Therefore, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology insists that “patients and doctors should be wary of unfounded announcements about improvements in certain medical situations.”

Entitled Stem cells: ready for the patient?, the paper analysed the existing scientific studies and clinical trials which relate their use for therapeutic purposes in assisted reproduction, such as the creation of eggs and sperm.