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Monkey Birth Heralds Possible Solution To Fertility Problems Of Childhood Cancer Survivors

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Scientists are moving closer to finding a way to avoid fertility issues among children who are diagnosed with cancer before puberty.

In a new study, a team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Magee-Women's Research Institute reported that testicular tissue can be cryopreserved and then restored in the same body later in life.

The experiment, which involved monkeys has produced offsprings, making scientists optimistic that the same procedure can be performed in humans in the future.

The researchers reveal the exciting discovery in Science.

First Baby Monkey Born Using Cryopreserved Testicle

More children are surviving childhood cancer. However, many of them, nearly one in three, will be left infertile after radiation and chemotherapy.

Young adults who are diagnosed with the disease can freeze their sperm, eggs, or embryos before they begin the treatment. However, children who have not gone through puberty cannot do the same because they are not producing mature sperm or eggs yet.

The new study gives hope that boys who are about to go through cancer treatment will have a chance to become fathers in the future.

"We grew up in families ourselves, and I imagine that many of us dreamed about growing up and having our own families," stated Kyle Orwig, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is also one of the authors of the study. "This advance is an important step toward offering young cancer patients around the world a chance at having a family in the future."

Orwig and his team developed a non-human model of cancer survivorship among prepubertal rhesus macaques. Prior to subjecting the monkeys to therapy, the researchers removed one of its testes and cryopreserved it. As the monkeys approached puberty, the other testis was also removed. On the same day, the team transplanted pieces of the tissues from both testes under the skin of the animal

When the monkeys reached puberty, their testosterone levels increased, causing the tissues to mature and produce sperm. About eight to 12 months later, the researchers removed the grafted tissues and found mature sperm.

The sperm was sent to the Oregon National Primate Research Center where a different team was generating embryos from female monkeys. In April 2018, a healthy baby monkey was born.

Solving Fertility Issues Among Childhood Cancer Survivors

Similar procedures have been performed and proved to be successful in other animals, including lab mice. However, the researchers also noted that in the non-human primate model, they grafted larger pieces of testicular tissues.

They hope that the success of the new study would lead to testing among human patients.

"Having produced a live-born and healthy baby, we feel that this is a technology that is ready to be tested in the clinic," added Orwig.

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