Despite remarkable advances in assisted reproductive capabilities ∼4% of all couples remain involuntarily infertile. In almost half of these cases, a lack of conception can in some measure be attributed to the male partner, wherein de novo Y-chromosomal deletions of sperm-specific Deleted-in-Azoospermia (DAZ) genes are particularly prevalent. In the current study, long-term cultures of rat spermatogonial stem cells were evaluated after cryo-storage for their potential to restore fertility to rats deficient in the DAZ-like (DAZL) gene. Detailed histological analysis of DAZL-deficient rat testes revealed an apparently intact spermatogonial stem cell compartment, but clear failure to produce mature haploid gametes resulting in infertility. After proliferating >1 million-fold in cell number during culture post-thaw, as few as 50,000 donor spermatogonia transplanted into only a single testis/ recipient effectively restored fecundity to DAZL-deficient rats, yielding 100% germline transmission to progeny by natural mating. Based on these results, the potency and efficacy of this donor stem cell line for restoring fertility to azoospermic rodents is currently unprecedented. Prospectively, similar successes in humans could be directly linked to the feasibility of obtaining enough fully functional spermatogonial stem cells from minimal testis biopsies to be therapeutically effective. Thus, regeneration of sperm production in this sterile recipient provides an advanced preclinical model for optimizing the efficacy of stem cell therapies to cure a paradoxically increasing number of azoospermic men. This includes males that are rendered infertile by cancer therapies, specific types of endocrine or developmental defects, and germline-specific de novo mutations; all of whom may harbor healthy sources of their own spermatogonial stem cells for treatment.
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