Monkey birth a step in saving fertility of boys with cancer
23, Mar 2019
Prelims level : Biotech Mains level : GS - III
- Scientists are closing in on a way to help young boys undergoing cancer treatment preserve their future fertility and the proof is the first monkey born from the experimental technology.
- More and more people are surviving childhood cancer, but nearly 1 in 3 will be left infertile from the chemotherapy or radiation that helped save their life.
- When young adults are diagnosed with cancer, they can freeze sperm, eggs or embryos ahead of treatment. But children diagnosed before puberty can’t do that because they’re not yet producing mature eggs or sperm.
- Scientists froze a bit of testicular tissue from a monkey that hadn’t yet reached puberty. Later, they used it to produce sperm that, through a monkey version of IVF, led to the birth of a healthy female monkey named Grady.
Hope to families
- The technique worked well enough for human testing to begin in the next few years and It’s a huge step forward that should give hope to families.
- Boys are born with stem cells inside little tubes in the testes, cells that start producing sperm after puberty’s testosterone jolt Keep sperm-producing stem cells safe from cancer treatment by freezing small pieces of testicular tissue, and using them to restore fertility later in life.
- Boosted by hormones, the little pieces of tissue grew. Months later, the researchers removed them. Sure enough, inside was sperm they could collect and freeze.
Option for girls
- If the technique sounds a little bizarre, it’s similar to a female option.
- Girls’ eggs are in an immature state before puberty. Researchers have removed and frozen strips of ovarian tissue harbouring egg follicles from young women before cancer treatment, in hopes that when transplanted back later the immature eggs would resume development.