Ground-breaking research could prevent infertility in young male cancer patients

Published 05 March 2015

A researcher from the University of New England is embarking on ground-breaking new research that could prevent the lifelong male infertility caused by cancer treatment in pre-pubescent boys.

Dr Muren Herrid from UNE’s School of Science and Technology is exploring the transplantation of stem-cells from the testes, which may preserve fertility in boys and allow them to have their own biological children.

Dr Herrid’s project will build upon previous research which has resulted in the successful transplantation of sperm-producing stem cells in cattle and sheep.

Dr Herrid says this ground-breaking technology could be modified for use in humans, specifically to prevent the infertility that often occurs as a result of irradiation and chemotherapy treatment in pre-pubescent boys.

“Although approximately 80% of children survive cancer treatments, many lose their fertility as a result,” Dr Herrid said.

“What we hope to achieve through this research is a fertility preservation treatment for boys who have to undergo cancer treatment.

“Essentially, spermatogonial stem cells will be harvested from cancer patients prior to their treatment. These cells will be frozen and transplanted back into the patients to restore their fertility once their treatment is finished.

“In adult men, fertility can be preserved by collecting and freezing sperm prior to treatment. This option is obviously not available to pre-pubescent boys who are not yet producing sperm.

“Based on previous research I conducted into stem-cell transplantation in sheep and cattle, we can now be confident that transplanted cells from the testes can regenerate the ability to produce sperm.”

Dr Herrid’s project will initially be supported by the School of Science and Technology, and it is already attracting the interest of philanthropic organisations around the nation who wish to support research that could improve quality of life outcomes for cancer patients.