Here at Herculean Strength, we’ve been covering the growing male fertility crisis with a justifiable sense of alarm. By 2045, more or less all men may be functionally infertile, according to shocking predictions made by fertility expert Shanna Swan, in her new book Count Down.

Now groundbreaking research is offering one answer to this looming problem. For the first time ever, scientists at the University of Georgia have successfully created functional sperm cells in a dish using primate embryonic stem cells.

Male fertility problems: are monkey stem cells the answer?

Male fertility
Rhesus macaques mating in the wild

“This is a major breakthrough towards producing stem cell-based therapies to treat male infertility in cases where the men do not produce any viable sperm cells,” says lead researcher Charles Easley, in a university press release.

The University of Georgia team used embryonic stem cells collected from rhesus macaque monkeys to produce immature sperm cells called round spermatids. Researchers were able to verify that those spermatids could fertilize a rhesus macaque egg.

In the past, scientists were able to create sperm-like cells using mouse stem cells. However, rodent sperm production is very different than that of humans, and so it was unclear if this technology would ever prove successful in humans.

“This is the first step that shows this technology is potentially translatable. We’re using a species that’s more relevant to us, and we’re having success in making healthy embryos,” Prof. Easley adds.

Scientists chose rhesus macaques for this work because they share similar reproductive mechanisms to humans. The study authors state that these monkeys are an “ideal and necessary model for exploring stem cell-based therapies for male infertility.”

In order for fertilization to occur in vitro, a number of factors come into play, including activating the egg to ensure that the fertilized egg will develop into a healthy embryo.

Now, to continue their research into male fertility, the team is planning on implanting the embryos into a surrogate rhesus macaque. This next step will help them assess whether or not embryos from in vitro spermatids can indeed produce a healthy baby. If that proves successful, the same process will be implemented using spermatid-like cells created from macaque skin cells.

What’s causing the male fertility crisis and what can be done?

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, it was considered the sole preserve of cranks and conspiracy theorists to claim that industrial chemicals found in the environment, especially the drinking water and food supply (including vegetable oils), were causing serious reproductive effects in animals and humans. In 2015, Alex Jones, the host of Infowars, was mocked in the mainstream media for a rant in which he uttered the now immortal line, “I don’t like ‘em putting chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay!”

Now, though, just five years later, those previously “fringe” concerns have well and truly gone mainstream, accompanied by some truly dire predictions. On March 10, Politico ran an article with the headline, “No more babies? The hormone-altering chemicals threatening human procreation”, to coincide with the release of a new book on the subject by Dr Shanna Swan, a world expert on reproductive health at Mount Sinai, New York.

By 2045, Swan claims, the majority of men may no longer be able to reproduce because of the effects of harmful chemicals from a variety of sources.  ‘We’re about 40 years behind global warming, in terms of awareness’, she notes, and yet the threat to human survival is just as great as, if not greater than, our concerns about greenhouse gas emissions. 

According to Swan’s projections from available data, in 2045 the sperm count of the median man will reach zero, meaning that one half of all men will have no sperm at all, and the other half will have an amount that is barely more than zero. The implications are obvious: no sperm, no babies. Such a scenario has already been dubbed ‘Spermageddon’.

The root cause of the massive (59%) decrease in the sperm count of the average Western man between 1973 and 2011 appears to be the growing exposure to endocrine (i.e. hormone)-disrupting chemicals, such as pthalates and bisphenol A, which are now ubiquitous in the modern developed world. Plastics, electronic goods, packaging, pesticides, cosmetics, personal hygiene products and, yes, the drinking water and food supply, including vegetable oils, all contain such chemicals that disrupt male fertility.

And don’t think that women get off lightly either. Miscarriage rates have increased significantly over the last two decades, and women are experiencing puberty at ever younger ages. Such changes will only serve to amplify the male fertility problems modern men are facing.

Here at Herculean Strength we believe nothing is inevitable – and that includes having your natural sperm replaced with sperm taken from a rhesus monkey.

What we advocate instead is a targeted approach that reduces our exposure to endocrine-disrupting substances, whether industrial or natural, as much as possible, and encourages a healthy, active lifestyle and diet that maximises natural testosterone production.

We’ve already devoted a series of articles to the dreadful effects of low testosterone, including its effects on mental health; the industrial compounds such as xenoestrogens and microplastics that are disrupting our hormones; foods that will boost your testosterone and foods that will lower it; and testosterone-boosting natural compounds.

These articles, which include practical guidance on how to rebalance your hormones and optimise your masculinity, will serve as the basis for a full book on the subject, which we have tentatively named Reclaim Your Masculinity.

Regarding dropping male fertility: act like the fate of the species depends on your choices – because this time it really might.

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