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A pioneering new charity dedicated to helping young people at risk of infertility has been set up by specialists from the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, the Institute of Research Studies at the University of Oxford, and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Nathan Crawford (centre) the first boy in the UK to have an operation (by NHS and Oxford University medics) to preserve some of his testicular tissue, with the hope he can have children later in life. Ben Birchall/ Press Association
Nathan Crawford (centre) the first boy in the UK to have an operation (by NHS and Oxford University medics) to preserve some of his testicular tissue, with the hope he can have children later in life.

Ten young people under the age of 25 are diagnosed with cancer every day. Eight will be cured; one of these eight will become infertile as a result of their treatment and will not be able to have their own children.

The Future Fertility Trust can help these young people by providing expert care and support to enable them to access the best possible fertility advice and treatment to help them preserve their fertility

The Future Fertility Trust offers a comprehensive tissue cryopreservation service for girls and boys alongside a dynamic research programme.

They are the only charity in the UK dedicated to providing specific help to children and young adults at risk of infertility. The Team at Oxford have been granted licences by the Human Tissue Authority and Human Fertility and Embryology Authority to collect, store and re-implant ovarian and testicular tissue. 

What is tissue cryopreservation? 

Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation  - Girls are born with their  total compliment of immature eggs already formed in the ovarian cortex. Cryopreservation is a way of storing tissue at very low temperatures in a ‘cryogenic’ freezer. The ultra-low temperature in the freezer preserves the hormone function and eggs stored in the ovarian tissue. For children and young adults who cannot have standard fertility preservation this offers the opportunity to preserve their ovarian function for use after chemotherapy/radiotherapy treatment is complete.

Immature Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation – There is no sperm present in the testes until after puberty. Immature testicular tissue contains the stem cells that will produce sperm, It is possible to cryopreserve testicular tissue from pre-pubertal boys for use after chemotherapy/radiotherapy is complete

Oocyte Maturation – It is sometimes possible to collect mature or almost mature eggs from the unstimulated ovary at the time of ovarian tissue cryopreservation. These eggs can be matured in vitro and then frozen /vitrified for future use

Tissue Bank – We run a biobank and hold ovarian and testicular tissue donated for research

Research – The Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Institute of Research Studies at the University of Oxford have a dynamic research programme with research projects in the areas of ovarian follicle development and sperm stem cell activation. As well as  looking at  novel approaches to fertility preservation    

The launch of the charity follows the success of the Future Fertility Service which has already helped over 60 young people store tissue and benefit from their expertise, like nine-year-old Nathan Crawford from Cornwall, who had radiotherapy and chemotherapy to shrink an inoperable brain tumour and this treatment risked leaving him infertile. Last December Nathan became the first boy in the UK to have an operation (by NHS and Oxford University medics) to preserve some of his testicular tissue, with the hope he can have children later in life. The aim is to one day re-implant it into Nathan. If the re-implantation is successful, Nathan will have a good chance of becoming a father.

Dr. Sheila Lane, Consultant Oncologist from the John Radcliffe Hospital said: "When you put this tissue back it generates its own blood supply and starts producing normal hormones, which restores fertility". 

For general enquiries email: futurefertilitytrust@nhs.net or visit www.futurefertilitytrustuk.org

Read more about Nathan here.