Researchers with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Magee-Womens Research Institute, have successfully restored fertility to non-human primate model of childhood cancer, creating hope that the same process may be successful in humans. The researchers were able to cryopreserve immature testicular tissue from the primates and then use that later to restore fertility.
Survivors of childhood cancer have a highly increased risk of becoming infertile with one out of every three experiencing fertility issues. Often radiation from chemotherapy or other medical treatments damage or kill the stem cells in testes that would go on to produce sperm after puberty in boys. The death of these stem cells results in permanent infertility.
The researchers found that they were able to take the immature testicular tissue containing these stem cells and cryopreserve them. After treating the primate group with chemotherapy, the tissue was thawed and grafted back under the skin of the animal it came from.
The animals then entered puberty, and after they reached maturity were checked to see if the process had been successful. Researchers found that significant amounts of sperm had been produced, so they collected it and sent it to another lab where they were used to create viable embryos and then implanted in surrogate mothers. One of these resulted in the birth of a female named “Grady.”
Researchers hope that the work they have done will allow survivors of childhood cancer to regain fertility that may have been lost as a result of treatments. The lead author, Kyle Orwig, explained, “This advance is an important step toward offering young cancer patients around the world a chance at having a family in the future.”
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