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Discovery Boosts Boys' Prospects for Post-Cancer Fertility
Date:11/20/2009

Testicular cells could be preserved for later use, study suggests

FRIDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests it may become possible for pre-pubescent boys stricken by cancer to prepare for the future when they may be infertile but still want to become natural fathers.

Scientists in the Netherlands found that testicular stem cells can be cultured and multiplied, potentially creating sperm. This raises the prospect that men made infertile by childhood cancer treatments could impregnate women by having the cells implanted in their testicles.

It may take some time to figure out how to make this process work. But a delay may not be a problem, said study co-author Ans van Pelt, since "it may easily take more than 10 years before a boy diagnosed with cancer today has a wish to have his own child."

Currently, there's no way for a boy who hasn't reached puberty to produce sperm and save it for a future time when he wants to become a natural father. Chemotherapy, in particular, can cause infertility in boys.

Van Pelt, a fertility researcher at the University of Amsterdam, and colleagues took stem cells from the testicles of six patients during prostate cancer surgery. They then tried to coax the cells to multiply.

The findings are published in the Nov. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers succeeded, and the stem cells, which form sperm, multiplied.

There are caveats. The cells came from adult men, not boys who haven't reached puberty. Researchers don't know if the cells can create sperm in humans. And it's possible that the cells could transmit cancer to the recipients, so researchers will have to figure out how to prevent that possibility.

Also, the costs are unclear. It may not be expensive to remove testicular tissue and store it, but work in the laboratory and transplantation into a patient could cost more,
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