Deep frozen testicle tissue used to
produce babies in mice
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[July 02, 2014]
LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have
for the first time produced live offspring from testicle tissue that has
been cryopreserved, or deep frozen, and say a similar technique might
one day be used to preserve the fertility of boys facing cancer
In a study published in the journal Nature Communications on
Tuesday, Japanese researchers said their experiments using mice led
to eight healthy offspring being born from sperm produced by
previously frozen and thawed testicle tissue.
"The cryopreservation of testicle tissue may be a realistic measure
for preserving fertility," the team, led by Takehiko Ogawa of
Japan's Yokohama City University Association of Medical Science,
wrote in the study.
Infertility is one of the adverse side effects of certain types of
cancer treatment, and, as cure rates for childhood cancers are
increasing, fertility has become an important concern for patients
and their families.
Freezing sperm itself to preserve it for future use is only possible
for boys who have reached puberty, so scientists have been seeking
ways of helping prepubescent boys have a chance of producing their
own children even after cancer treatment.
Ogawa and colleagues said they had previously developed an organ
culture system that can induce complete spermatogenesis — the
process by which sperm is produced by the testes — in mice.
In this latest experiment, they cryopreserved the testicular tissues
of newborn mice, either by slow-freezing or vitrification — a
specialized fast-freezing technique.
After thawing, the tissues were cultured - or grown in a lab dish -
and spermatogenesis induced. The scientists found the thawed tissues
was able to produce sperm just as efficiently as comparable unfrozen
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The team then used micro-insemination — where sperm is deposited
directly into immature egg cells — with tissues that had been
cryopreserved for more than four months.
This lead to eight offspring in total, they said, and the offspring
grew healthily and were also able to reproduce.
"This strategy presents a potential method for preservation of
fertility but will require further work before it can be translated
into humans," Ogawa's team wrote.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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