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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Future Fertility Programme Oxford

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Testicular tissue

Videos

Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation video playlist

Testes and testicular tissue

Testes (also called testicles) are part of the male reproductive system.

When a boy is born they usually have two testes which contain 'sperm stem cells'. Before puberty, these stem cells are inactive (dormant).

Once a boy reaches puberty these cells, along with their supporting cells, will usually start to produce sperm and the hormone testosterone. Tissue containing sperm stem cells from the testicles can be cryopreserved and stored for future use.

Collection and storage

We usually collect testicular tissue during a short surgical operation under general anaesthetic which we arrange before treatment starts if possible.

During the operation, the surgeon removes a wedge-shaped section of tissue (biopsy) containing sperm stem cells. The tissue is transported immediately to the Oxford Cell and Tissue Biobank (OCTB) in Oxford.

There we carefully preserve the tissue and freeze it using a specialised cryopreservation process. We then safely store the tissue at ultra-low temperatures (around -170°C).

Future use

Testicular tissue cryopreservation programmes are well-established and have been running in a number of centres worldwide for over ten years.

Storage of testicular tissue containing sperm stem cells offers the potential for fertility restoration but is not a guarantee of viable sperm or a resultant successful pregnancy.

None of the patients with stored tissue have yet reached an age when they wish to start a family, so there are no published reports on the use of testicular tissue in humans to date.

Various techniques for use of the tissue have been developed including tissue or sperm stem cell re-implantation and in vitro maturation of tissue to produce sperm.

However, the way that stored testicular tissue could be used in the future may change and progress with new advances and research.

We will discuss all techniques fully when a patient wishes to use their stored tissue to start a family.