Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 15, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
40 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD Wednesday, November IS, VlTi First there were eye banks., now ifs sperm banks KITCHENER, Ont. (CP) A newly-opened sperm bank in Kitchener should be consi- cjered evolutionary rather than revolutionary, says Ine physician who established it. "Think of it as a type of insurance lor people who might run into he said in an interview. The peo- ple in this case would proba- bly be men who had vasec- tomies, then lost their fami- lies for some reason arid wanted to father more chil- dren. Cryogen Laboratories Inc. has just opened and will be publicized mainly through in- lormaUon pamphlets mailed to doctors in the area. The Kitchener doctor who set up the bank asked that his name not be published because the bank is in no way connected with his medical practice. The bank is intended for use mainly by men planning to have a vasectomy but lite the thought that their semen is slored and may be used at some future date for artificial insemination. HELPS CHILDLESS Other incentives for men to etore their semen may Include the increasing difficulty in finding babies to adopt. In up to 50 per cent o[ cMldless cou- ples who want children, the inability to reproduce may lia with the man, possibly be- cause of a low sperm count. By storing and then pooling or concentrating several eja- culates, the count may be brought up to a level where, through artificial insemina- tion, the wife may be impreg- nated. Another category of men who might use a sperm bank are those requiring radiation treatment for an illness or those who must have their testicles removed in the course of treatment. The managers of the Kitch- ener lab plan to build up a donor bank for couples who want children but the male is sterile. It is expected that 10 or 15 anonymous donors, probably university students, will be screened for physical condition and possible genetic disorders, and their semen stored for artificial insemina- tion. MATCH COUPLES The bank would match donor and recipient for char- acteristics such as color of hair and body size, although no attempt would be made to assess intangible attributes such as personality. Other banks have been es- tablished in Toronto, New York, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Because about 25 or 30 va- sectomies are performed daily in the Kitchener area, there is definitely a market for storage facilities. But John Purvis, technical adviser on freezing semen, cautioned that it Is not a last-minute matter. At least two weeks are re- quired to obtain the semen for storage because a minimum of two separate specimens are taken, each preceded by at least five days of abstinence. After the procedure is ex- plained, the man who wants to store his semen is given a kit to take home. When he brings the specimen to the bank, it is examined for sperm count, mobility and morphology, mixed with a di- luent, sealed and frozen in a tank of liquid nitrogen to 320 degrees below zero. 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New York Times Service WASHINGTON They are as various as humanity itself, but they all have somthing very important in common. They are all living on time borrowed with living tissues from someone else. These are the several thousand men, wo- men and children whose lives have been saved, at least for the time being, by transplantation. They are all beneficiaries of a realm of science that is advancing rapidly and which is crucial to many is- sues of human health s-i-J iltsss. The sub- ject is immunology, a field that deals with the body's natural reactions to everything from poison ivy to cancer. Immunology is the key issue in trans- plantation because here the body's inter- nal defenses meet the desires of the sur- geon and the life-and-death needs of the patient head on. Whether the transplant be a heart, liver, kidney or other organ, the normal body responds by attacking and destroying il because the body sees the transplant as foreign. This assault la Immunological, the work al specialized cells and substances which have roles that are only now beginning to be understood. The assault is implacable and deadly to the foreign tissue, trans- plants are successful only because doctors have found ways to call a truce with the immunological defenses. But the truce is imperfect and often just temporary. Today research workers are trying to find ways of procuring i real and lasting peace. Still alive An International registry maintained Jointly by the American College of Sur- geons ind the National Institutes of Health shows that more than kidney trans- plants have been done altogether. Of these nearly half of the total ever trans- planted are functioning today and keep- ing their recipients alive. As these figures include the early days of transplantation, when the normal expec- tation was failure, today's totals are im- pressive. The numbers for other organs, such as the heart and liver, are far smaller, but they represent partial triumphs over the Immunological defense system and evi- dence that human lives can be saved long before the last scientific word ia written on the subject. The purely surgical prob- lems of transplantation were solved long ago. The great barrier is immunological. Although immuno-suppressive drugs have made modern transplantation possible, some experts believe that these chemicals cannot carry progress much further. Sci- entists are searching for ways of the body tolerate transplant without drugs and for better ways of matching the recipient with the best potential donor. And this revolves around specific tolerance. Simply sUtcd, specific tolerance is the state in which the person who has received a new organ accepts it as "self" and is no longer imperilled by the threat of re- jection. This has been achieved experimen- tally in animals, but not Cat least not in- tentionally) in man. Matching tissue On cmajor thrust in transplantation re- search for the past decade has been the effort to define human solid tissue types In a way analogous to blood types and to find means of matching the tissues c.' don- ors and recipient to minimize the rejection problem. The system most widely used today for typing tissue was developed over a period of almost 'a decade through the contribu- tions of many scientists licre and abroad. It is called the HL-A system, a designation that derives from the words "human leukocyte-A." Leukocytes are white blood cells and they arc thought to have all (he markers of tissue type that are found in solid tissues. HL-A typing Is done hy H series of blood lesls, but the system has proved to be far more complex than the ABO system of red blood cell types. Tissue types arc determined by heredity. It seems ronsonnblc to expect Uiat in s brother and sister who match perfectly In what Is known as the "human leukocyle- A." or system, certain "un- known" factors also mntch becmisc they are carried along in tlio heredity process. In unrelated persons there Is no necei- sary reason why this should happen. The "HL-A" system is analogous to blood typing. Leukocytes are while blood cells and. they are thought to have all the markers of tissue type that are found in solid tissues. If two people are HL-A match- es, Ihe chances for a successful transplant appear to be enhanced. A difference Evidence that there is indeed a difference between the significance of perfect match- es hi siblings brother or and in tho nan-related pairs comes from a fijld of transplantation that Is considered par- ticularly important today. This Is bone marrow transplantation. In a sense, this ij the ultimate transplant, because bone mar- row is the key imjnunologic tissue. A group led by Dr. E. Donnall Thomas at the University of Washington, Seat- tle, has achieved some remarkable suc- cesses recently with bone marrow trans- plants in which the donor-recipient pairi were siblings who matched perfectly In terras of both the HL-A system and another vide used test called the mixed leukocyte culture test But, there were failures even in these seemingly perfectly matched pairs. Fur- thermore, Thomas said during a recent interview that he knows of no case In which i bone marrow transplant was successful when the match was less than perfect In most persona other than Identical twins, a bone marrow transplant is an all- or-nothing situation because failure of a marrow transplant means death. In the Seattle group's latest Mriea ot bone marrow transplants in eight patients, the hopeful part of (lie story concerns the four patients who lived. They all appear to be out of the woods so far as their fatal disease is concerned. The anemia for which they were treated Involved complete failure of native mar- row function, a condition which virtually halts the patient's production of blood. The usual result is death from hemorrhage or Infection. Thomas said that patients with marrow failure as complete as this almost never recover. This leaves marrow transplanta- tion as the only hope, but he knows of no successes other than these four. Marrow transplantation is particular- ly important because in theory it could be used to treat a broad spectrum of grave illnesses and inborn defects. For medical scientists, it seems likely to teach many lessons concerning immunology as well as disease stales. Encouraging sign A plastic anemia Is by no means the only reason for marrow transplantation in man. Almost a decade ago Dr. Georges Mathe of Hospital Paul Drousse near Paris obtained encouraging, althougn not definitive, results in one patient using bone marrow transplantation against acute leukemia. The doctor also is reportedly do- ing marrow transplants for a plastic anem- ia with some good responses. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood-form- ing tissues, of which bone marrow is the most important. It would sesm a likely candidate- for this kind of treatment and several medical teams have tried It. Unfortunately there have been many cases in which leukemia has recurred af- ter the transplant. Altogether, according to a report lo t meeting of the International Society for Ex- perimental Hematology in Milwaukee earl- ier this fall, there have probably been about 500 attempts to transplant bone mar- row throughout the world. To date some of the most heartening successes have come in treating children born with serious defects In their own Im- munological defense systems. Some of these children have been almost totally naked of any such defenses and therefore have been prey to infection and early death from causes that leave a normal person unmarked. In others Urn defects have been more circumscribed, but still deadly. Experience to dale with nil kinds of trnnsplnnls in man nt cenlrcs In mnny countries shows Hint lives onn be saved without waiting [or the final word to be written on the subject of transpIanlaUon Immunology.