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J Androl. 2008 Sep-Oct;29(5):469-87. doi: 10.2164/jandrol.107.004655. Epub 2008 May 22.

The cycle of the seminiferous epithelium in humans: a need to revisit?

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  • 1Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.


Understanding the dynamics of spermatogenesis is central to clinical andrology or to probing environmental effects on human testes. This review considers what is known about renewal and proliferation of spermatogonia, how germ cells are organized in cellular associations constituting the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium, relative frequencies of cellular associations, durations of the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium and spermatogenesis, and measurement of daily sperm production. Daily sperm production (DSP) per testis tends to decline with advancing age. Regardless of age, there is substantial loss of potential sperm from degeneration of spermatocytes, but not spermatids. DSP per gram testis parenchyma or DSP per testis cannot be predicted on the basis of testis size or age of a man. The review shows why our 1960s data base is neither robust nor precise and suggests how deficiencies might be rectified. New cellular associations should be defined, with none representing >15% of the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium. Then determine when A(pale)-spermatogonia become committed to proliferate or how many mitotic divisions occur thereafter. Restudy the duration of spermatogenesis because the accepted value might be in error by approximately 6 days. Restudying human spermatogenesis will benefit clinicians, toxicologists, and epidemiologists probing testis function by direct evaluations or indirectly via evaluations of quantity and quality of sperm ejaculated. It also will benefit scientists interested in renewal and proliferation of spermatogonia, or a spermatogonium as a prototype stem cell.

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