Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Herman Tournaye
Our research team studies spermatogenesis with a special focus on spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). SSC depletion, which is a major side effect of gonadotoxic treatments or the result of a genetic disorder, such as Klinefelter's syndrome, leads to infertility. Our current aim is to develop strategies to prevent infertility after SSC loss. Fertility can be preserved by either limiting the loss of gametes and their precursors or by storing gametes and/or their precursors.
While adult men can bank their spermatozoa prior to gonadotoxic treatment (e.g. chemo- or radiotherapy), no options are available to preserve fertility in prepubertal boys, who do not have active spermatogenesis yet. Storing SSCs before starting gonadotoxic treatment may therefore be a strategy to prevent infertility in the long term. After being cured, SSCs may be reintroduced into the seminiferous tubules in order to regenerate spermatogenesis. Alternatively, testicular tissue containing SSCs may be grafted.
However, this strategy is not possible for patients with Klinefelter's syndrome since the testes of these boys are sclerotized at adult age. For these patients in vitro spermatogenesis would be helpful.
Our research therefore investigates:
- The feasibility of storing SSCs either as a suspension or as whole tissue.
- Transplantation of SSCs by infusion of a cell suspension or by tissue grafting.
- The feasibility and safety of reproduction with gametes obtained after transplanting SSC.
- Strategies for optimizing the regeneration of spermatogenesis from SSCs.
- Strategies for preventing the loss of gametogenic cells by gonadotoxic treatments.
- The generation of sperm cells in vitro.
- The use of SSCs in regenerative medicine.
- Strategies for preventing the loss of gametogenic cells in genetic diseases, eg Klinefelter's syndrome.