Restoration of functional sperm production in irradiated pubertal rhesus monkeys by spermatogonial stem cell transplantation

Andrology. 2020 Sep;8(5):1428-1441. doi: 10.1111/andr.12807. Epub 2020 May 18.


Background: In male pre-pubertal cancer patients, radiation and chemotherapy impact future fertility by eradication of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). In macaques, spermatogenesis could be regenerated by intratesticular transplantation of SSCs, but only a small percentage of spermatozoa produced were of donor origin. Transient hormone suppression with a GnRH antagonist (GnRH-ant) enhanced spermatogenic recovery from transplanted SSCs.

Objectives: To evaluate donor-derived and endogenous spermatogenic recovery after SSC transplantation into irradiated monkeys and to test whether hormone suppression around the time of transplantation facilitates spermatogenic recovery.

Materials and methods: Testes of 15 adult rhesus monkeys were irradiated with 7 Gy and 4 months later transplanted, to one of the testes, with cryopreserved testicular cells containing SSCs from unrelated monkeys. Monkeys were either treated with GnRH-ant for 8 weeks before transplantation, GnRH-ant from 4 weeks before to 4 weeks after transplantation, or with no GnRH-ant. Tissues were harvested 10 months after transplantation.

Results: Two of the 15 monkeys, a control and a pre-transplantation GnRH-ant-treated, showed substantially higher levels of testicular spermatogenesis and epididymal sperm output in the transplanted side as compared to the untransplanted. Over 84% of epididymal spermatozoa on the transplanted side had the donor genotype and were capable of fertilizing eggs after intracytoplasmic sperm injection forming morulae of the donor paternal origin. Low levels of donor spermatozoa (~1%) were also identified in the epididymis of three additional monkeys. Transplantation also appeared to enhance endogenous spermatogenesis.

Discussion and conclusion: We confirmed that SSC transplantation can be used for restoration of fertility in male cancer survivors exposed to irradiation as a therapeutic agent. The success rate of this procedure, however, is low. The success of filling the tubules with the cell suspension, but not the GnRH-ant treatment, was related to the level of colonization by transplanted cells.

Keywords: GnRH antagonist; ICSI; radiation; spermatogenesis; transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult Germline Stem Cells / transplantation*
  • Animals
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental
  • Spermatogenesis / physiology*
  • Spermatogonia / transplantation*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Testis / radiation effects*