When grafted back after puberty, testicle tissue from young monkeys allows immature sperm cells to grow.
Cancer survival rates for children have reached 80% today. That is great news, but there are some side effects for certain patients that can impact their lives as adults. For instance, prepubescent boys, unlike teens and adults, do not have mature sperm cells that can be frozen for future use. Young boys with cancer that receive chemotherapy and radiation before they have reached puberty, therefore, suffer from a loss of fertility due to an inability to produce sperm.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are investigating a new approach that may overcome this problem. Kyle Orwig, who directs a fertility preservation program at the Magee-Womens Hospital, and colleagues have been working with rhesus macaque monkeys. They removed testicle tissue samples from five young monkeys that had not yet reached puberty, froze them for up to five months and then grafted them back onto the monkeys under the skin on both the animal’s back and its scrotum.
During the following year, in which the monkeys went through puberty, the grafts grew, produced the male hormone testosterone and developed mature sperm cells in all five monkeys. In vitro fertilization using the sperm cells from one of the monkeys led to the development of embryos that were implanted in a female monkey, resulting in a successful pregnancy and birth.