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Scientists develop the first model for investigating the origins of testicular cancer in humans
Date:8/3/2010

Scientists have developed a model that will enable them to investigate, for the first time, how human testes develop in baby boys while they are in the womb. Until now it has been impossible to study testicular development during pregnancy in humans and this discovery will enable researchers to understand the processes that can lead to the onset of testicular germ cell cancer (TGCC) in young adult life, and how factors, such as common environmental chemicals, might play a role.

The research was carried out by Dr Rod Mitchell, clinical research fellow at the UK's Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit at the University of Edinburgh, and is published online in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction [1] today (Wednesday 4 August).

Principal Investigator at the unit, Professor Richard Sharpe said: "There is now overwhelming evidence that growth and development in foetal life play a fundamental role in determining the future risk of a wide range of common diseases in later life. Male reproductive disorders fall into this category, in particular testicular germ cell cancer, the commonest cancer of young men in their 20s and 30s. We know it originates because of abnormal foetal germ cell development and this then leads to tumour formation in young adulthood, but how and why things go wrong with development of some of the germ cells in foetal life is unknown and inaccessible for direct study for obvious reasons."

The types of TGCC that occur in humans do not occur in laboratory animals, probably because of differences between humans and animals in the timing and organisation of foetal germ cell development. Therefore, using animal models to study TGCC origins is not possible.

For this reason and because there was no other option available, the researchers obtained ethical approval to take testicular tissue from foetuses that had been aborted at nine weeks and between 14-18 week
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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.com
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology
Source:Eurekalert

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