Testicular tissue from pre-pubescent boys has been successfully converted to sperm precursor cells. Belgian researchers isolated and froze immature testicular tissue from two pre-pubescent boys. The preserved tissue was thawed out and used to generate spermatogonial cells - an intermediate step towards producing sperm. These findings could potentially help pre-pubescent boys left infertile as a result of cancer treatment.
Mara Curaba, a fertility researcher at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, who was involved in the study, explained that the work 'could be a promising strategy to preserve the reproductive capacity of young boys'. The findings were presented last week by Mrs Curaba at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Rome.
Research in mice has shown that sperm can be produced from preserved testicular tissue and that this sperm can then be used to produce viable offspring. This has yet to be achieved in humans. Mrs Curaba suggests this may be due to the freezing process used.
Previous work by Mrs Curaba and colleagues has focused on optimising this freezing process. Their findings, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility this month, describe a process called vitrification. Vitrification was shown to successfully preserve both the survival and development of mouse testicular tissue. This technique was also adopted in the human trials carried out and involves the use of chemicals to help protect the tissue. Further testing of this technique is required to ensure its effectiveness at preserving the fertility of pre-pubescent boys following cancer treatment.