A new study led by Brian Hermann, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), shows promising evidence that a medication previously used to prevent infections in cancer patients can also keep them from becoming infertile. Losing fertility is a recurrent problem among cancer patients, as treatments for the disease often halt sperm manufacture.
Hermann and his research team have been following a number of cutting-edge research creativities to restore fertility in men who have lost their ability to have children as a result of cancer treatments they received as children. While working on methods to restart sperm manufacture, the researchers discovered a link between a drug for recovering cancer patients and the nonappearance of normal damage to generative ability.
The drug is called G-CSF or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor. It rouses the bone marrow to produce neutrophils, which are white blood cells that are needed to fight infections. They’re usually lost after chemotherapy and energy treatments.
“We were using G-CSF to prevent infections in our research experiments,” Hermann said. “It turned out that the drug also had the unforeseen impact of guarding against male sterility.”
Because cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy often kill sperm stem cells, male imitation can become essentially impossible. In Hermann’s laboratory, G-CSF, by promoting cell growth, unexpectedly began regenerating sperm production by creating new sperm cells to replace the dead cells.
A study authored by Hermann and his students telling these results was recently published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. Hermann’s laboratory focuses almost wholly on regenerating dead testicular tissue through the use of stem cells, making the project an exciting but unexpected detour that he hopes to continue, if possible.
The next step would be observing whether the use of the drug, which is already set often by oncologists, has any association with improved fertility among cancer patients. Until then, Hermann is focusing on better understanding the stem cells that make male imitation possible, so he can find even more real solutions to treating male infertility.
“Male infertility is an intuitive disease and we need creative solutions,” he said. “But we need to comprehend how things work before we can fix them.”