(Nov. 29, 2012) -- Radiation and chemotherapy can pack a powerful punch against all kinds of cancers. Those who survive, however, are often left with bad news: Their treatments have rendered them infertile.
A UTSA professor has now demonstrated that it is possible to remove testicular stem cells from a monkey prior to chemotherapy, freeze them and later, after cancer treatments, transplant these cells where they can restart sperm production and restore fertility.
UTSA Assistant Professor Brian Hermann worked in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Magee-Women's Research Institute (MWRI) on a technique that might be used to make male cancer patients fertile using their own spermatogonial stem cells.
"This is a really exciting milestone for this research," said John McCarrey, director of the San Antonio Cellular Therapeutics Institute. "This is the first time that anybody has been able to show the concept works in a primate model, and that is an important step in moving the research forward to clinical trials."
While men facing cancer treatments, which could cause infertility, are able to store their own sperm for future use in the fertility clinic, this is not an option for boys before puberty who are not yet making sperm. But, all pre-pubertal boys have spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) in their testes, which could be used for transplantation.
The concept of using spermatogonial stem cells to restore fertility was first introduced in the mid-1990s by University of Pennsylvania scholar Ralph L. Brinster. Since that time, scholars have been working to demonstrate the concept is viable.
But, more work is required. The research must overcome a number of hurdles before it can become a common clinical practice.
"This research demonstrates the proof of principle -- that the concept works in primates and has a good chance of working in humans," said Hermann. "We need to better understand the optimal timing of transplantation, how to prepare testicular stem cells for transplantation and make them safe for transplantation, and how to maximize their ability to restart sperm production."
But, it's difficult for researchers to know when clinical trials will begin, since the removal and storage of spermatogonial stem cells currently is a rare practice worldwide.
"There are currently only a handful of clinics around the world that will remove and preserve testicular stem cell samples from pre-pubertal patients, and that limits the availability of candidates," said Hermann. "Until more clinics get on board and save stem cells for patients, we are limited in what we can do to test transplantation in clinical trials."
Hermann joined the UTSA College of Sciences faculty in summer 2011, following a post-doctoral fellowship at MWRI alongside Associate Professor Kyle Orwig. At UTSA, he is continuing to focus his research on basic and translational studies of spermatogonial stem cells to preserve fertility in boys treated for cancer and related diseases.
"For a long time, oncologists have been unable to address the long-term consequences of life-saving chemotherapy and radiation treatments such as infertility," said Hermann. "That is now beginning to change as laboratory research such as this study provides new experimental options for patients facing infertility after cancer."
Hermann's research is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund, and UTSA.
Learn more about Hermann's research and read his article "Spermatogonial Stem Cell Transplantation into Rhesus Testes Regenerates Spermatogenesis Producing Functional Sperm" in the current issue of Cell Stem Cell, the nation's leading stem cell journal.
The annual UTSA Graduate fair gives students an opportunity to meet representatives who can provide the information on admission requirements, fellowship opportunities, and other key information.
University Center, Main Campus
A recruiter will speak to potential candidates for the Archer program. The Archer program has helped students land successful careers in public service.
Durango Building (DB 2.208), Downtown Campus
Canadian scholar Jasmin Hristov will present a lecture on paramilitarism, complex type of politically-motivated violence in different parts of Latin America. This presentation will explain paramilitary violence as a tool of economic globalization.
Buena Vista St. Bldg., Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus
Richard Peretz,’85, chief financial officer at UPS, will present the keynote address at the Frost Distinguished Lecture Series, presented by the UTSA College of Business.
Business Building (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
The UTSA Department of Philosophy and Classics hosts Michael Wheeler from University of Stirling as its Brackenridge Distinguished Visiting Professor. He will be giving a talk on how creativity works.
H-E-B University Center (HUC 1.102), Main Campus,
The Dept. of Kinesiology, Health and Nutrition and the South Texas Consortium for HIV and STI Research welcomes Dr. Joshua Rosenberger who will discuss his recent work on using innovative HIV-prevention strategies.
University Center (UC 2.02.12), Main Campus
Join the UTSA African American Studies program for a lecture by Gary Bledsoe, President of the Texas NAACP, who specializes in public interest law, employment and civil rights law.
Buena Vista Building (BVB 1.328), Downtown Campus
The UTSA College of Engineering Technology Symposium showcases innovative student projects and research performed across multiple disciplines including engineering, science and business. The public is invited.
H-E-B UC Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.