Notice: Users may be experiencing issues with displaying some pages on stanfordhealthcare.org. We are working closely with our technical teams to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.
Other doctors may have told you that fathering a child is impossible—that you have no measurable sperm and are not a candidate for fertility treatment. But we do not rest so easily, and do not believe you need to, either.
The Stanford International Azoospermia Center is a world leader in diagnosing and treating azoospermia, and we invite you to visit. Not every man can become a biological father. But we have successfully treated plenty of cases where patients were previously told they did not have a chance—taking the impossible and making it possible.
We seek to unlock the secrets of sperm production, so that all men who want to become biological fathers can fulfill that wish. As part of that mission, we investigate the causes and consequences of azoospermia, as well as innovate diagnostic tools and treatments. We have particular research expertise in biology and reproductive biology. While not all of our recent projects (stem cells, new ways to look for sperm) are quite ready for clinical use, they have nevertheless guided and informed our approach to caring for azoospermia. We are always looking for new ways to help you, and incorporate the most promising. We hope to start clinical trials for our most exciting developments soon, with eligible patients able to enroll.
Azoospermia research and stem cells
One of the most exciting potential approaches is our work to make sperm from stem cells—the cells that exist throughout the body and can create our components, including tissues and blood cells. That could help men who cannot produce sperm. While our lab and others are still developing the approach, the basic technology exists to support our premise: That we can take a patient’s stem cells and make partially or fully formed sperm. We would then implant those sperm into the testicles, where they would complete their maturation and enter the reproductive tract. Preliminary data from mice show this is possible—we need to work on the best, most reliable way to coax the stem cells into sperm and get them to mature. In humans, we have data from our lab showing the creation of sperm-like cells from stem cells, a crucial step in the research. (Learn more at the journal Cell Reports.)
Our center is also exploring how to:
Create sperm after converting a patient’s skin cells into stem cells (induced pluripotent cell, or iPS)
Correct genetic problems that impede sperm production
Azoospermia and the search for sperm
When patients have nonobstructive azoospermia, we often search for pockets of sperm production in their testicles. The most advanced technique now available injects a needle at multiple points to remove tissue samples — while effective and safe, we are working on newer, less-invasive methods. Learn more about the existing tools for our sperm extraction. Our potential approaches include:
Special MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): We are working on special MRI techniques to look at the cellular activity within the testicles and identify the unique signature of sperm. That way, we could both avoid needles and noninvasively test hundreds of testicle regions for sperm, rather than the dozens we currently sample.
Confocal Laser Endomicroscope: This promising technology provides much greater magnification than our existing tools, placing us at the cellular level and allowing us to look for sperm in tissue without removing it.
Azoospermia and health
Our group has an epidemiological background, and we seek to understand the intersection of health and azoospermia. We have identified health conditions that may impact fertility, providing additional avenues to improve treatment. Read our paper in the journal Human Reproduction.
Our goals extend beyond simply helping couples conceive, though. Our lab has established that azoospermic men potentially have a higher risk of cancer in the years after an infertility evaluation—suggesting that such men should continue routine medical care even after reproductive efforts are complete. Read a summary of our work in the journal Fertility and Sterility. We seek to help men achieve long and healthy lives beyond infertility treatment.
Stanford Health Care is known worldwide for the advanced patient care provided by its doctors and staff. We also provide a wide range of guest services and amenities to our patients and visitors. Learn more about preparing for a hospital stay, billing and financial services, and our other support programs in Patients & Visitors.
We regularly treat patients from around California, the United States and the world. We welcome men who already have a diagnosis of azoospermia, and those who strongly suspect they have the condition. We are also happy to provide second opinions, either for yourself or (in conjunction with our colleagues) for your partner.
Stanford Health Care provides comprehensive services to refer and track patients, as well as the latest information and news for physicians and office staff. For help with all referral needs and questions, visit Referring Physicians.