Can Making Eggs Help Us Make Sperm?
Forgive me for talking about eggs during Men’s Health Month, but this one is too good to pass up. It was announced to the world recently that a woman just delivered a child after natural conception. And the news here is….?
A First Among Eggs
Ok, there’s a catch. The newborn baby came from eggs within an ovary that was removed from the woman as a young teen, frozen for years, and then surgically implanted back into her after she underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Although births after ovarian transplantation have been reported in adult women before, the “first” here comes from the fact that the ovarian tissue was taken from a pre-pubertal girl. A grand feat of fertility restoration!
This is a true triumph of biology and good news for those of us working on ways to preserve the fertility of pre-pubertal boys. Because boys, like girls, have no mature gametes (finished products like mature eggs or sperm) at hand to store before receiving sterilizing chemotherapy treatment. This case shows that immature, egg-precursors in the human ovary can be frozen and thawed and then put back where they belong in an adult and carry on just like nothing ever happened. Is the same thing possible for the testicle?
Boys To Men
For several years now, male fertility specialists have been biopsying pre-pubertal testicles just before boys get blasted with chemotherapy. The tissue is frozen, just like in this case. However, unlike the little-ovary-that-could, no human sperm have been generated from banked testicular tissue to date, by any means. Nevertheless… the success in the ovary is proof of concept that it can work in the testicle. After all, despite the fact that boys are made from snips and snails and puppy dog tails and girls from sugar and spice and everything nice, in many ways, they represent parallel biological universes.
So, hats off to women for showing us the way. Eggs 1, sperm 0. And the best part about this little race? We are on the same team.