New procedure to preserve boys' fertility


Childhood cancers are increasingly treatable with high survival rates. However, success often comes at cost of giving up fertility. A research team led by Ralph Brinster of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has finished a 14 year study that may give hope to more boys that their fertility may be preserved.

For boys, fertility begins with spermatogonial stem cells which are present at birth. They are embedded in the basement membrane of the testes' seminiferous tubules. As boys approach fertility, these cells begin to make daughter cells that become sperm. While they normally continue this process throughout a post-pubescent life, the treatments for cancer – chemotherapy and radiation – destroy them and make a boy sterile.

About one third of boys who survive cancer are in danger of decreased fertility. Adult men who anticipate damaged fertility as a result of cancer treatment can freeze their sperm. This is not an option for prepubescent boys. However, if a sample of a boy's spermatogonial stem cells could be extracted and preserved before cancer treatment, then reimplanted after the boy reaches adulthood, the fertility challenges could be avoided.

“There are a number of places, including at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia,” Brinster said, “that are already freezing cells for patients to use later, with the expectation that the necessary culture system and implantation techniques will be developed. A logical question for patients to ask is, How do we know that, after 10 years or more of being stored, these cells are any good? That's what our study addresses.”

Brinster's techniques worked on mice after using thawed spermatogonial stem cell samples from ten years ago. “We had cells frozen for over a decade that implanted in the right place and made sperm, and that sperm made offspring without apparent genetic defects.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Human Reproduction


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