In a first for primates, sperm extracted from a once-frozen sample of testicle tissue was used to create a baby monkey, according to a new study. If this feat is replicated in humans, it could give some young children undergoing cancer treatment a way to preserve their fertility.
The treatments that help childhood cancer patients survive may also reduce their fertility later in life. One potential safeguard against future fertility problems is to testify tissue, and use it to generate sperm when survivors are ready to have kids – but this has not been tested in humans. To find out whether strategy can produce a healthy baby, researchers decided to test it in monkeys. The result was announced today in the journal Science : a healthy baby Rhesus macaque named Grady .
Chemotherapy drugs and radiation can wipe out the stem cells that produce sperm. Adults facing cancer treatment can bank their sperm. But children's testicles that have gone through puberty aren't making sperm. Kyle Orwig, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, & reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, wants to help these kids open their options in case they someday want to produce their own genetic offspring. "Cancer survivors tell us that their fertility status has a really important impact on their quality of life," he says. "The psychological impact of being able to have a child can be devastating."