An elegant system that may restore fertility in men after treatment for cancer is described in the new journal Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology & Metabolism this week. The technique has the potential to be used not only to help cancer survivors but also to treat men with other causes of infertility. It may be especially important for prepubertal boys, who cannot produce sperm and so do not have the option to store semen prior to cancer therapy.
Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) can be isolated from the testes and transplanted to regenerate sperm production. Hiroshi Kubota and Ralph Brinster describe the perfection of a culture system in mice so that stem cells can be grown and stored prior to transplantation. SSCs from all the mammalian species examined, including human, have been shown to replicate in the mouse culture system. The next step is to adapt the culture specifically for human SSCs.
Because cultured cells can readily be manipulated, this system potentially allows the removal of residual cancer cells prior to transplantation. Alternatively, stem cells may be induced to develop into sperm prior to in vitro fertilization. Finally, gene therapy in these stem cells may offer a means to prevent diseases such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia.
Professor Ralph L Brinster(School of Veterinary Medicine, Baltimore Avenue, PA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology & Metabolism press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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