Development of new assisted reproductive technology - in vitro derivation of sperm from embryonic stem cells


   School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

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  Dr Ryo Sekido, Dr S Dietrich  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2024. 

The PhD will be based in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences and will be supervised by Dr Ryo Sekido and Dr Susanne Dietrich.

 Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 per year towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.

Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.  

The work on this project will include:

  • stem cell culture and tissue engineering – inducing differentiation of stem cells into specific cell-types.
  • application of biomaterials and chemicals to 3D culture system.
  • studies of reproductive health, infertility and assisted reproductive technology.
  • a wide range of general laboratory techniques including DNA/RNA/protein analyses, immunocytochemistry, and advanced skills in bioinformatics and OMICS analyses.

Project description

Increased infertility rate is nowadays a significant issue in humans and animals, especially endangered species. In humans, approximately 10-15% of couples require fertility treatment and 40% of the causes of their infertility are male factors. The present assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilisation and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, has only limited success in humans and animals. It is also notable that boys having chemotherapy treatment for cancer at young age often become sterile permanently because the cancer drug kills germ cells. To overcome the problem, embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been considered as another source of sperm. To date, it is already possible to generate artificial primordial germ cells (PGCs), i.e. diploid gamete precursors, from human and mouse ESCs/iPSCs. However, despite many attempts using different conditioned media, no functional sperm has been generated from the artificial PGCs in vitro.

We propose that direct interaction between germ cells and testicular somatic cells is essential to sperm production as in the case of spermatogenesis in vivo. Hence, we previously generated germ cell progenitor-like cells and testicular somatic cell-like cells from mouse ESCs individually, and then co-cultured them in vitro. The unique culture system allowed us to demonstrate creation of a testicular organoid with the appearance of a structure reminiscent of the seminiferous tubule, in which an interaction of PGC-like cells and Sertoli cell-like cells was reconstructed, although the PGC-like cells did not differentiate into haploid sperm. In this project, we will apply multi-disciplinary approaches to the current organoid culture system including 3D culture, synthetic chemistry, and OMICS. In vitro sperm generation will have an enormous impact on not only fertility treatment in humans and endangered animals, but also selective breeding of livestock.

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements 

The candidates should have an interest in reproductive biology, stem cell biology and tissue engineering. Experience in cell culture and molecular biology would be desirable. 

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Ryo Sekido ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PHBM8700124 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.


Engineering (12) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 per year towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.
Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.
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