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Preliminary Communication
November 18, 2009

Propagation of Human Spermatogonial Stem Cells In Vitro

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Center for Reproductive Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (Drs Sadri-Ardekani, Mizrak, Koruji, van der Veen, de Rooij, Repping, and van Pelt and Mss van Daalen, Korver, Roepers-Gajadien, and Hovingh) and Department of Urology (Drs de Reijke and de la Rosette), Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Reproductive Biotechnology Research Center, Avicenna Research Institute, Tehran, Iran (Dr Sadri-Ardekani).

JAMA. 2009;302(19):2127-2134. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1689

Context Young boys treated with high-dose chemotherapy are often confronted with infertility once they reach adulthood. Cryopreserving testicular tissue before chemotherapy and autotransplantation of spermatogonial stem cells at a later stage could theoretically allow for restoration of fertility.

Objective To establish in vitro propagation of human spermatogonial stem cells from small testicular biopsies to obtain an adequate number of cells for successful transplantation.

Design, Setting, and Participants Study performed from April 2007 to July 2009 using testis material donated by 6 adult men who underwent orchidectomy as part of prostate cancer treatment. Testicular cells were isolated and cultured in supplemented StemPro medium; germline stem cell clusters that arose were subcultured on human placental laminin–coated dishes in the same medium. Presence of spermatogonia was determined by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and immunofluorescence for spermatogonial markers. To test for the presence of functional spermatogonial stem cells in culture, xenotransplantation to testes of immunodeficient mice was performed, and migrated human spermatogonial stem cells after transplantation were detected by COT-1 fluorescence in situ hybridization. The number of colonized spermatogonial stem cells transplanted at early and later points during culture were counted to determine propagation.

Main Outcome Measures Propagation of spermatogonial stem cells over time.

Results Testicular cells could be cultured and propagated up to 15 weeks. Germline stem cell clusters arose in the testicular cell cultures from all 6 men and could be subcultured and propagated up to 28 weeks. Expression of spermatogonial markers on both the RNA and protein level was maintained throughout the entire culture period. In 4 of 6 men, xenotransplantation to mice demonstrated the presence of functional spermatogonial stem cells, even after prolonged in vitro culture. Spermatogonial stem cell numbers increased 53-fold within 19 days in the testicular cell culture and increased 18 450-fold within 64 days in the germline stem cell subculture.

Conclusion Long-term culture and propagation of human spermatogonial stem cells in vitro is achievable.