Males Facing Sterilizing Cancer Treatment Can Now Preserve Testicular Tissue

Scientists obtained testicular tissue samples from 189 males facing procedures that could lead to infertility. The scientists cryopreserved the samples at a certain university. The researchers proved the feasibility of centralized freezing and processing of testicular tissue.Sperm

Case study

According to Michael Hsieh, Ph.D., it was not surprising that the University of Pittsburgh recorded the largest number of samples over that 8-year period. This is because it is the central processing facility for their recruiting network of academic medical centers. Children’s National recruited the 3rd-highest patient number.

Around 2,000 U.S. young men and boys receive treatment or have blood disorders or cancers putting them at infertility risks. Older youths who have been through puberty can bank their sperm before undergoing sterilizing doses of radiation or chemotherapy. However, there are scarce fertility preservation options for the younger boys. Some young men or older adolescents cannot bank sperms because of stress. The only option is freezing testicular tissue, anticipating that future cell-based therapies can generate sperm.

Recent experimental model studies show that testicular tissue biopsies have stem cells. This gives a hint at the potential of using biopsied tissue to generate sperm.

The study demonstrated that progenitor spermatogonia and the undifferentiated stem could be recovered. Scientists could recover them from patients’ testicular tissues in their early treatment stages. Researchers did not test these spermatogonia’s functions.

Currently, oncologists and hematologists discuss future treatment options with the patients and their families. They also discuss the possible side effects, infertility included. Dr. Hsieh meets with families and explains the study’s goals. They include:

  • Better ways of freezing the tissue.
  • Separation of malignant cells from normal cells

He also explains what is known about experimental fertility and what is unknown. Almost half of the patients enrolled.

Dr. Hsieh says that the study since there is a possible direct patient benefit presents a message of hope. This makes the study compelling. They are optimistic that they can help children get through this.

During this phase of the study, researchers collected and cryopreserved testicular tissues from centers in Israel and the U.S. this was from January 2011 to November 2018. Patients allocated 25% of the tissue sample for the research study. The remaining 75% of the tissue is stored in liquid nitrogen at temperatures close to absolute zero. The patients ranged from five months to 34 years old, averaging 7.9 years.

39% of the patients had begun medical treatment before requesting fertility preservation. 16% of them underwent non-alkylating chemotherapy. 23% underwent alkylating chemotherapy which damages cancer cells’ DNA directly.

The team discovered that the number of undifferentiated spermatogonia per seminiferous tubule increases bit by bit with age until 11 years. It then sharply rises.


Dr. Hsieh recommends that all the patients receive counseling and be referred for fertility preservation. This is before they start medical treatments that may cause infertility.

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