BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Mouse becomes 'sperm nursery'
Mouse (picture: Nature)
Testicular tissue was developed under mouse skin (picture: Nature)
A breakthrough by researchers could mean that testicle tissue from boys facing cancer treatment could be saved - by transplanting it into mice.

Experts managed not only to successfully transplant tissue from a goat and a pig under the skin of the mouse, but then watched it mature until fully-formed sperm could be harvested from it.

It is the first time such a cross-species transplant has been so successful.

Many types of chemotherapy destroy the cells in the testicle which make sperm, making the patient infertile.

After puberty, males can freeze a sample of sperm which can be thawed later.

It is possible that adults will soon be able to freeze small sections of tissue which could be reimplanted later to restore full fertility.

However, little can be done at present to help pre-pubescent children, as they cannot produce sperm or mature testicular tissue to freeze.

Under the skin

Dr Ina Dobrinski from the school of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania managed to graft fragments of newborn pig and goat testes under the skin of mice.

These had been given immunosuppressant drugs to reduce the chance they would "reject" the foreign tissue.

Once in place in the adult mice, the immature tissue grew and developed into small "testes" under the skin.

These matured and began to produce fully-functioning sperm, relying on the natural hormones of the mouse to make this happen.

More than 60% of the grafts survived and produced working sperm, they reported to the journal Nature.


We are constantly researching types of chemotherapy that are less damaging

Spokesman, Leukaemia Research Fund
While the lifespan of the mouse host is limited - and would not stretch the 10 years or more needed if tissue was transferred from a pre-pubescent human, the advance proves in principle what could be achieved.

The researchers suggested it could produce a limitless supply of sperm for a would-be father, rather than the limited amount that could be stored prior to chemotherapy.

They said it could also be used to "piggy-back" the sperm of endangered species, or rare breeding animals.

No need

However, a spokesman for the Leukaemia Research Fund said that advances in treatment would hopefully mean that such techniques would never have to employed in humans.

He said: "We are constantly researching types of chemotherapy that are less damaging, and trying to identify patients on whom we can use less severe treatments.

"Things are improving all the time. We often hear of cases of women who were told they would never be able to have children who have just managed it."

See also:

26 Jun 00 | Health
24 Feb 99 | Health
28 Jan 02 | Health
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes