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Meistrich, Marvin L., Ph.D

Professor of Experimental Radiation Oncology,
Florence M. Thomas Professor of Cancer Research,
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center,
Houston, Texas 77030.

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Research Interests:
– reproductive toxicology and endocrinology
– biochemistry and molecular biology of sperm development

Our major focus is on understanding the molecular events of the differentiation of the spermatogonia.  The spermatogonial stem cells self-renew and give rise to differentiating spermatogonia that eventually develop into sperm.  The differentiation of the spermatogonia is sensitive to disruption by toxicological exposure (e.g. radiation and chemotherapy) and genetic mutations and can result in sterility.  Certain strains of rats (Brown-Norway, Lewis) are extremely sensitive to this disruption. We have made a very exciting discovery that testosterone, the hormone that is usually responsible for the stimulation of production of sperm in the normal male, can inhibit the initial stages of spermatogenesis in these pathological situations.  We have shown that we can reverse this inhibitory process and restore fertility by hormone treatments that suppress testosterone levels. Based on our current data, we propose that testosterone stimulates the synthesis of a protein in Leydig cells that inhibits spermatogonial differentiation.  We are currently elucidating the genes and mechanisms using recombinant inbred rats, in vitro culture, isolation of specific cell types, transplantation of specific testis cells between animals, analysis of differential mRNA expression, and modeling these effects in genetically engineered (transgenic, knockdown, and knockout) rodents.
Clinical applications of this research include restoration of fertility after radiation or chemotherapy for cancer (possibly with spermatogonial transplantation) and reversible contraception by blocking an early stage of sperm development.


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RGD is funded by grant HL64541 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute on behalf of the NIH.