The concept of spermatogenesis is, in essence, the production of sperm cells within the male body. The biological specifics of this process are quite complicated and involve many different steps and individual mechanisms. In most healthy males, the process known as spermatogenesis begins at the time of puberty and continues through the end of life or until the man has reached a very advanced age. Unlike women, who are incapable of producing additional eggs throughout life, the male body will continue to generate sperm cells through spermatogenesis as long as the process can be continued normally.
The process of spermatogenesis is technically the development of primordial germ cells in a man's testes up through spermatogonia and finally to fully functioning sperm cells. Along the way through this process, those primordial germ cells are developed into primary spermatocytes. The primary spermatocytes then divide into two separate secondary spermatocytes. Secondary spermatocytes will then continue to divide into two spermatazoa, also known as spermatids. These spermatids must then develop into fully functioning sperm cells. Thus, each primordial germ cell that successfully goes through the process of spermatogenesis ultimately becomes four sperm cells.
The entire spermatogenesis process in human males takes place in the testes and the epididymis. It takes approximately 64 days in a healthy male for the normal spermatogenesis to convert a primordial germ cell into four functioning sperm cells. Through the process of spermatogenesis, the sperm cells are created with half of the male chromosomes. Thus, each sperm cell can then successfully fertilize a female oocyte that is complete with half of the female partner's chromosomes in order to produce an embryo.
Spermatogenesis and Infertility
Without proper spermatogenesis occurring, a male human will be infertile. In most cases of male infertility, however, spermatogenesis is not completely disabled. In fact, even a small interruption to the spermatogenesis process can create major difficulties for couples attempting to conceive. This is part of the reason why sperm counts tend to drop dramatically in older men, and why these men may have a more difficult time conceiving than they would have at a younger age.
If insufficient sperm cells are created, the chances of a healthy sperm cell meeting and fertilizing a female oocyte decrease dramatically. Thus, men with spermatogenesis impairment oftentimes must rely on artificial means of enhancing fertility. These methods help to ensure that the healthy sperm produced through the limited spermatogenesis process will be able to successfully meet and fertilize the egg of the female partner.
Checking for spermatogenesis difficulties is usually done through a final examination of the end product; thus, a sperm count is typically the means of determining whether the spermatogenesis process is being completed as it should be. If you or your partner has a low sperm count and difficulties with spermatogenesis, consult with a fertility specialist to determine how you may be able to bypass this issue.