A new study shows that taking tiny testicular tissue samples could help give young and adult men another chance to raise a family.
To date, 2,000 boys and young men are estimated to be at risk of infertility due to cancers or blood disorders. Some of these patients are also expected to struggle to bank sperm due to their disease or stress.
But that may become a problem of the past. Researchers found that freezing testicular tissue could be used in cell- or tissue-based therapies to generate sperm.
Previous studies suggested that the testicular tissue biopsies may contain stem cells and blank slate cells that could be converted into sperm in the future.
“This study demonstrates that undifferentiated stem and progenitor spermatogonia may be recovered from the testicular tissues of patients who are in the early stages of their treatment and have not yet received an ablative dose of therapy,” Hanna Valli-Pulaski, lead study author and research assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a statement.
For the study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, the research team collected testicular tissue from centers in the U.S. and Israel from January 2011 to November 2018, which were later cryopreserved for future experiments. The participants ranged from five months old to 34 years old.
Prior to providing tissue samples, 39 percent of the patients started medical treatment, 16 percent received non-alkylating chemotherapy, while 23 percent had alkylating chemotherapy.
The patients agreed to provide 25 percent of their tissue sample for the research study, while 75 percent should remain stored at temperatures close to absolute zero for their future personal use.
“This study is unique in that there is definitely a potential direct patient benefit,” Dr. Hsieh adds. “One of the reasons the study is compelling is that it presents a message of hope to the families. It’s a message of survivorship: We’re optimistic we can help your child get through this and think about long-term issues, like having their own families.”