Prepubescent boys who are diagnosed with cancer and receive cancer treatments may face a life of infertility since they don’t yet produce mature sperm.
Researchers have hypothesized that saving the boys’ immature spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) may provide a means to later restore their fertility.
However, it was unknown how long these cells could be stored and still maintain their functionality.
In 1995, Ralph Brinster, the Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Penn Vet, began a study to investigate how long SSCs could be frozen and remain viable.
His research group froze SSCs from mice, rats, rabbits, and baboons for 14 years and then tested their viability.
They found that the thawed cells were able to successfully implant in the animals’ testes. The cells also produced mature sperm that were able to successfully produce offspring by either IVF or natural means.
These data provide exciting information that may help restore fertility in boys left sterile from cancer radiation and chemotherapy.