Stem cell research provides hope for infertile cancer survivors

December 10, 2012

Radiation and chemotherapy can pack a powerful punch against all kinds of cancers. Those who survive, however, are often left with bad news: Their treatments have rendered them infertile.

A UTSA professor has now demonstrated that it is possible to remove testicular from a monkey prior to , freeze them and later, after cancer treatments, transplant these cells where they can restart sperm production and restore fertility.

UTSA Assistant Professor Brian Hermann worked in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) on a technique that might be used to make male cancer patients fertile using their own spermatogonial stem cells.

"This is a really exciting milestone for this research," said John McCarrey, director of the San Antonio Cellular Therapeutics Institute. "This is the first time that anybody has been able to show the concept works in a primate model, and that is an important step in moving the research forward to clinical trials."

While men facing cancer treatments, which could cause infertility, are able to store their own sperm for future use in the , this is not an option for boys before who are not yet making sperm. But, all prepubertal boys have spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) in their testes, which could be used for transplantation.

The concept of using spermatogonial stem cells to restore fertility was first introduced in the mid-1990s by University of Pennsylvania scholar Ralph L. Brinster. Since that time, scholars have been working to demonstrate the concept is viable.

But more work is required.

The research must overcome a number of hurdles before it can become a common clinical practice.

"This research demonstrates the proof of principle – that the concept works in and has a good chance of working in humans," said Hermann. "We need to better understand the optimal timing of transplantation, how to prepare testicular stem cells for transplantation and make them safe for transplantation, and how to maximize their ability to restart sperm production."

But it's hard for researchers to know when clinical trials will begin since the removal and storage of spermatogonial stem cells is currently a rare practice worldwide.

"There are currently only a handful of clinics around the world that will remove and preserve testicular stem cell samples from prepubertal patients, and that limits the availability of candidates," said Hermann. "Until more clinics get on board and save stem cells for patients, we are limited in what we can do to test transplantation in clinical trials."

Hermann joined the UTSA College of Sciences' faculty in summer 2011, following a post-doctoral fellowship at MWRI alongside Associate Professor Kyle Orwig. At UTSA, he is continuing to focus his research on basic and translational studies of spermatogonial stem cells to preserve fertility in boys treated for cancer and related diseases.

"For a long time, oncologists have been unable to address the long-term consequences of life-saving chemotherapy and radiation treatments such as infertility," said Hermann. "That is now beginning to change as laboratory research such as this study provides new experimental options for patients facing infertility after cancer."

Explore further: Stem cell study: Male fertility can be restored after cancer treatment

Related Stories

Stem cell study: Male fertility can be restored after cancer treatment

November 1, 2012
An injection of banked sperm-producing stem cells can restore fertility to male primates who become sterile due to cancer drug side effects, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and ...

Sperm precursor cells made in the lab could one day restore male fertility

August 28, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) can be coaxed into becoming precursor sperm cells, suggesting that it might be possible one day to restore fertility ...

Research points to new way of preserving fertility for boys undergoing cancer treatment

March 26, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Treatments for childhood cancers are increasingly successful with cure rates approaching 80%, but success often comes with a downside for the surviving men: the cancer treatments they received as boys ...

Recommended for you

Make way for hemoglobin

August 18, 2017
Every cell in the body, whether skin or muscle or brain, starts out as a generic cell that acquires its unique characteristics after undergoing a process of specialization. Nowhere is this process more dramatic than it is ...

Bio-inspired materials give boost to regenerative medicine

August 18, 2017
What if one day, we could teach our bodies to self-heal like a lizard's tail, and make severe injury or disease no more threatening than a paper cut?

Two-step process leads to cell immortalization and cancer

August 17, 2017
A mutation that helps make cells immortal is critical to the development of a tumor, but new research at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that becoming immortal is a more complicated process than originally ...

Female mouse embryos actively remove male reproductive systems

August 17, 2017
A protein called COUP-TFII determines whether a mouse embryo develops a male reproductive tract, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health and their colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. The ...

Are stem cells the link between bacteria and cancer?

August 17, 2017
Gastric carcinoma is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths, primarily because most patients present at an advanced stage of the disease. The main cause of this cancer is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, ...

New Pathology Atlas maps genes in cancer to accelerate progress in personalized medicine

August 17, 2017
A new Pathology Atlas is launched today with an analysis of all human genes in all major cancers showing the consequence of their corresponding protein levels for overall patient survival. The difference in expression patterns ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.