Just as the new year rang in and our economy crumbled like a moldy, rotten, smelly house of cards, scientists at Stanford and University of California San Francisco (UCSF to make things simple and, believe me, you’ll want things as simple as possible after this post) announced that they successfully isolated human stem cells from the cells of testes.
Yes. Testes. Balls. Nuts. Apparently every man has swarms of life giving and body repairing cells down there; which totally explains why they get so itchy at times.
While I have to question the study of the male ball sack as a medical career track of choice (gynecology class full?), this might be the finding of the century. Bear with me a minute while I get you up to speed on the jargon.
For the uninitiated like me (I had to look all this shit up to understand what the hell was going on) current stem cells are considered ‘pluripotent’. This means they could differentiate into any of the three germ layers: Endoderm (lungs, stomach lining, intestines), mesoderm (muscle, bone, blood) or ectoderm (epidermal tissue, nervous system).
While these testes cells bear a similarity to stem cells, they ‘have different patterns of gene expression and regulation and they do not proliferate and differentiate as aggressively as human embryonic stem cells’. In other words, these cells are multipotent; meaning the cells can be used in multiple ways, but only for one of the germ layers.
Or something like that. Even the researchers themselves aren’t entirely sure, calling the cells ‘multipotent germline stem cells’. I’m pretty sure that’s really smart guy speak for ‘I dunno’ followed by an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders.
I won’t bore you with the details of what they did, how they did it and who first thought ‘Male testicles! Of course!’. You can read the article if you really want that information. Just know that the testes cells acted the same as stem cells (but not EXACTLY) and, more importantly, according to Dr. Paul Turek, ‘These cells could potentially treat infertility or other diseases in men’.
Researchers at Georgetown University now say ‘Fuck potentially. I have your ‘potentially’ right here, motherfuckas!’. They have successfully converted testes cells into true, pluripotent embryonic-like stem cells. While I can’t believe two different highly regarded Universities in this country are poking around the genitalia of random men, let’s be glad they are. As the study’s director, Dr. Martin Dym, says, ‘Given these advances, and with further validation, it is possible that in the not–too-distant-future, men could be cured of disease with a biopsy of their own testes’.
To boil this down to it’s basics, men’s testicles could contain the ingredients that would make us LIVE FOREVER! Got a disease? ‘Doc, could you get me some of my frozen ball junk and fix me up, please? I’ll be over at three. Thanks!’
Frozen, you ask? Why, yes. According to Dr Dym (which better be pronounced ‘dim’ so I can giggle every time he’s mentioned), ‘Once these new cell types are produced – several weeks after initial collection – they can be frozen and used at any point in the future. We are taking adult spermatogonial stem/progenitor cells, which in the body are unipotent, capable of only making sperm, and coaxing them back to embryonic stem-like cells, which are pluripotent’.
Oh, yeah! Coax those cells, Dr Dym! For the record, my testes are omnipotent.
Think about this future: You have a son. Between the ages of 18-50, he decides some insurance policy is needed and has come of his own testes extracted and frozen for a later date. Somewhere along the line he discovers he has cancer. It won’t matter what kind, since the cells can be made into pluripotent cells and be adapted to any part of the body. He undergoes cell therapy and the cancer is wiped out.
Or he is in an accident and winds up paralyzed.
Or he loses an arm.
Or he goes blind.
We are at the infancy stage of what stem cells can do. They won’t help everybody, but their use is certainly far from fully realized. Now we have a new method to extract, store and use cells in a way that won’t rile up the religious right.
What if my cells can help save one of my sons?
What if they can be used for someone else?
I’m making an appointment and trashing my own vow to have nothing sharp near my scrotum in order to get some of my ball cells extracted, treated and frozen just as soon as it becomes available as an option. I will become indestructible! A Super Man! Men around the world can become immortal! (Team Testes?)
There’s nothing stopping us now, my brothers!
Let me just check with the wife before I make that call.
Today’s distraction: The trials and tribulations of a sidewalk chalk artist. Love the finished product (a bit disorienting), too.