Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 May 2000
In the last 3 years, several studies have shown that xenogeneic transplantation of rodent spermatogonia is feasible. The treatment of infertile patients with spermatogenic arrest using the injection of immature germ cells has yielded only poor results. We attempted to establish a complete spermatogenetic line in the testes of mutant aspermatogenic (W/Wv) and severe combined immunodeficient mice (SCID) transplanted with germ cells from azoospermic men. Spermatogenic cells were obtained from testicular biopsy specimens of men (average age of 34.3 ± 9 years) undergoing infertility treatment because of obstructive and non-obstructive azoospermia. Testicular tissue was digested with collagenase to promote separation of individual spermatogenic cells. The germ cells were injected into mouse testicular seminiferous tubules using a microneedle (40 μm inner diameter) on a 10 ml syringe. To assess the penetration of the cell suspension into the tubules, trypan blue was used as an indicator. Mice were maintained for 50 to 150 days to allow time for germ cell colonisation and development prior to them being killed. Testes were then fixed for histological examination and approximately 100 cross-sectioned tubules were examined for human spermatogenic cells. A total of 26 testicular cell samples, 16 frozen and 10 fresh, were obtained from 24 men. The origin of the azoospermia was obstructive (OA) in 16 patients and non-obstructive (NOA) in 8 patients. The concentration of spermatogenic cells in the OA group was 6.6 × 106 cells/ml, and 1.3 ? 106 cells/ml in the NOA group (p < 0.01). The different spermatogenic cell types were distributed equally in the OA samples, ranging from spermatogenia to fully developed spermatozoa, but in the NOA group the majority of cells were spermatogonia and spermatocytes. A total of 23 testes from 14 W/Wv mice and 24 testes from 12 SCID mice were injected successfully, as judged by the presence of spermatogenic cells in histological sections of testes removed immediately after the injection. However, sections from the remaining testes examined up to 150 days after injection showed tubules lined with Sertoli cells and xenogeneic germ cells were not found. The reason why the two strains of mouse used as recipients did not allow the implantation of human germ cells is probably due to interspecies specificity involving non-compatible cell adhesion molecules and/or immunological rejection.
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