A new treatment may be on the horizon for the treatment of male hypogonadism, according to recent findings published in Stem Cell Reports. Male hypogonadism, a condition in which the body produces abnormally low levels of testosterone, affects roughly 30% of the elderly male population. Issues created by low testosterone levels range from mood swings and decreased sex drive to a decrease in muscle and bone strength.
Traditional treatments include hormone replacement therapy; however, recent research has reveled significant risks, including venous thromboembolism and deep vein thrombosis. To further underline the dangers of testosterone replacement therapy, the United States Food and Drug Administration, in collaboration with Health Canada, mandated that a warning be added to all testosterone replacement products.
With increased awareness of traditional treatment risks, alternative treatment options are in demand. The team of researchers behind the new study, led by researcher Yadong Huang at Jinan University, China, believe that stems cells produced from human skin cells may hold the key.
Testosterone is naturally produced when Leydig Cells – found in the testicles – produce androgens, which are in turn biosynthesized into testosterone. Huang and her team – including co-senior author Zhijian Su, also of Jian University – hypothesized that by transforming adult skin cells into Leydig-like cells and injecting them into males with hypogonadism, testosterone would naturally, and more effectively, regenerate.
To test their hypothesis, scientists synthesized Leydig cells from rodents affected by hypogonadism. Scientists then transplanted the newly synthesized Leydig cells back into the rodent subjects. As the team hypothesized, these new cells were not only accepted, but successfully restored normal testosterone levels in the affected rodents.
Regarding the significance of their findings, Huang had this to say, “Our study is the first to report a method for generating Leydig cells by means of direct cell reprogramming. This alternative source of Leydig cells will be of great significance for basic research and provides the attractive prospect of clinical application in the field of regenerative medicine.”
This incredible advance in the field of stem cell research provides hope for those affected by this often debilitating condition. It also gives researchers added confidence to continue pursuing newer and better applications for stem cells.
Huang’s team plans to continue their research with a focus on improving the efficiency their approach and creating a pure population of the Leydig-like cells.