Does co-transplantation of mesenchymal and spermatogonial stem cells improve reproductive efficiency and safety in mice?

Prashant Kadam, Elissavet Ntemou, Jaime Onofre, Dorien Van Saen, Ellen Goossens

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Background: Spermatogonial stem cell transplantation (SSCT) is a promising therapy in restoring the fertility of childhood cancer survivors. However, the low efficiency of SSCT is a significant concern. SSCT could be improved by co-transplanting transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ1)-induced mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). In this study, we investigated the reproductive efficiency and safety of co-transplanting spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) and TGFβ1-induced MSCs. Methods: A mouse model for long-term infertility was used to transplant SSCs (SSCT, n = 10) and a combination of SSCs and TGFβ1-treated MSCs (MSi-SSCT, n = 10). Both transplanted groups and a fertile control group (n = 7) were allowed to mate naturally to check the reproductive efficiency after transplantation. Furthermore, the testes from transplanted males and donor-derived male offspring were analyzed for the epigenetic markers DNA methyltransferase 3A (DNMT3A) and histone 4 lysine 5 acetylation (H4K5ac). Results: The overall tubular fertility index (TFI) after SSCT (76 ± 12) was similar to that after MSi-SSCT (73 ± 14). However, the donor-derived TFI after MSi-SSCT (26 ± 14) was higher compared to the one after SSCT (9 ± 5; P = 0.002), even after injecting half of the number of SSCs in MSi-SSCT. The litter sizes after SSCT (3.7 ± 3.7) and MSi-SSCT (3.7 ± 3.6) were similar but differed significantly with the control group (7.6 ± 1.0; P < 0.001). The number of GFP + offspring per litter obtained after SSCT (1.6 ± 0.5) and MSi-SSCT (2.0 ± 1.0) was also similar. The expression of DNMT3A and H4K5ac in germ cells of transplanted males was found to be significantly reduced compared to the control group. However, in donor-derived offspring, DNMT3A and H4K5ac followed the normal pattern. Conclusion: Co-transplanting SSCs and TGFβ1-treated MSCs results in reproductive efficiency as good as SSCT, even after transplanting half the number of SSCs. Although transplanted males showed lower expression of DNMT3A and H4K5ac in donor-derived germ cells, the expression was restored to normal levels in germ cells of donor-derived offspring. This procedure could become an efficient method to restore fertility in a clinical setup, but more studies are needed to ensure safety in the long term.

Original languageEnglish
Article number310
JournalStem Cell Research & Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2019


  • Epigenetics
  • Fertility restoration
  • Male infertility
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Reproductive efficiency
  • Spermatogonial stem cells
  • Transplantation

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