May 4 (UPI) -- A new study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh has shed light on the mechanisms behind cell repair, which may lead to preserved fertility in men.
Researchers have discovered a small group of cells responsible for repairing damage to testes, which could lead to improved fertility.
Male testes are extremely sensitive to damage from external factors such as radiation and chemotherapy, which can lead to infertility. Damage can be repaired by internal cell mechanisms, but the process was not understood until now.
For the study, researchers used molecular tools to remove the newly-discovered cells, called Miwi2-expressing cells, in a group of mice. Mice without Miwi2-expressing cells were not able to repair injury, however, researchers found that Miwi2-expressing cells can develop features in response to damage causing them to act like stem cells to repair tissue.
"In identifying this key group of cells, we have made a significant step in understanding cell repair in testes," Donal O'Carroll, stem cell biologist and professor at the University's MRC Center for Regenerative Medicine, said in a press release. "Our study with mice suggests that it may be beneficial to also freeze additional cells in order to maximize chances of future treatments. Our next step is to identify the equivalent group of cells in humans."
The findings could help future infertility options for pre-pubescent boys undergoing cancer treatment where sperm banking is not an option.
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.