Researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), along with Soroka University Medical Center, are developing a new cell culture system to transform testicular STEM cells into sperm-like cells.
This method to create sperm-like cells is expected to help in preserving the future fertility for pre-pubertal boys scheduled to undergo chemotherapy.
The study is funded by The Kahn Foundation and The United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and led by Center of Advanced Research and Education in Reproduction (CARER) Professor Mahmoud Huleihel.
Aggressive chemotherapy sessions in childhood can cause permanent testicular damages resulting in infertility.
With the aim to help preserve male fertility in the future, the study uses the presence of spermatogonial cells (SPGCs) in the testes of prepubertal cancer patient boys (PCPBs).
It procured seven testicular biopsies from chemotherapy-treated PCPBs where the testicular cells were cultivated and isolated in the pre-meiotic, meiotic and post-meiotic stages of development.
The researchers also identified sperm-like cells which formed from the testicular cells of a PCPB.
Huleihel said: “Our results demonstrate the presence of biologically active SPGCs in testicular biopsies of chemotherapy-treated PCPBs for the first time, and their capacity to develop in vitro to different stages of spermatogenesis including the generation of sperm-like cells.
“This study may open the way for new therapeutic strategies for fertility preservation of PCPBs and for azoospermic patients.”
The findings of the study were first published in Stem Cells and Development.