A new medical breakthrough may provide future fertility hope for young boys diagnosed with cancer. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh reported the birth of the first monkey born from freezing immature testicular tissue.
When children are diagnosed with cancer before puberty, they do not have the same fertility preservation options as young adults diagnosed with cancer. Adults have the option to freeze eggs, sperm, or embryos to try to preserve their future fertility. But, for pre-pubescent children, they are not yet producing mature eggs and sperm. This leaves them with limited options for fertility preservation if they are diagnosed with cancer.
Having a monkey be born from frozen immature testicular tissue is a huge step forward in trying to find ways to preserve fertility for children with cancer. The scientists from the University of Pittsburgh froze testicular tissue from young male monkeys that hadn’t yet reached puberty. They then sterilized the monkeys. Later, once the monkeys reached puberty, they thawed the testicular tissue samples and implanted them under the skin of the monkeys. After giving them hormonal treatments, the pieces of tissue grew. The researchers then removed the tissue and inside they found sperm that they could collect and freeze. A female monkey at the Oregon National Primate Research Center then underwent in vitro fertilization, conceived, and gave birth to a healthy monkey using that sperm.
“It’s a huge step forward,” said Susan Taymans of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which helped fund the research published in the journal, Science. “It’s not like science fiction. It’s something that seems pretty attainable.”
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments have allowed more children than ever survive childhood cancers, but unfortunately, approximately 1 in 3 children will be left infertile from these treatments. This new research will hopefully lead way to giving them more fertility preservation options, so that they can have the families they desire in the future.