PHILADELPHIA Treatments for childhood cancers are increasingly successful with cure rates approaching 80%, but success often comes with a downside for the surviving men: the cancer treatments they received as boys can leave them sterile as adults. Now, a research team led by Ralph Brinster of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has completed a 14-year experiment that gives hope for a technique that could restore their fertility.
Brinster is the Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Penn Vet and was recently awarded the National Medal of Science for his lifetime of research on the genetics of the mammalian germline, the cells that give rise to sperm and eggs.
In his most recent research, Brinster collaborated with fellow members of the Department of Animal Biology at Penn Vet, with members of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and with the Penn Bioinformatics Core.
Their study was published in the journal Human Reproduction.
For males, fertility begins with spermatogonial stem cells, which are present at birth, embedded in the basement membrane of the testes' seminiferous tubules. As a boy approaches puberty, these cells begin to make daughter cells that eventually become sperm. While they normally continue this process throughout a post-pubescent man's life, factors like radiation and chemotherapy drugs can destroy them, rendering him sterile.
About 1 in 3 boys surviving childhood cancer will be in danger of having severely decreased fertility as an adult; as many as 1 in 5,000 men of reproductive age currently suffer this serious quality-of-life problem as a result. Adult men who undergo cancer treatment that might damage their fertility can preemptively freeze their sperm, an option not available to pre-pubescent boys. But if a sample of a boy's spermatogonial stem cells could be extracted and preserved befo
|Contact: Evan Lerner|
University of Pennsylvania