Z-scores for comparative analyses of spermatogonial numbers throughout human development

We recommend the adoption of the S/T Z-scores described here as reference that can be used as measure of spermatogonial quantity in prediction analyses when considering chances of future fertility.

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VOLUME 116, ISSUE 3, P713-720


Miriam Funke, Yifan Yang, M.D., Atte Lahtinen, M.D., Klara Benninghoven-Frey, Sabine Kliesch, M.D., Nina Neuhaus, Ph.D., Jan-Bernd Stukenborg, Ph.D., Kirsi Jahnukainen, M.D., Ph.D. 



To normalize age-dependent effects on standardized measures of spermatogonial quantity such as the number of spermatogonia per tubular cross-section (S/T) or fertility index.


Published quantitative histologic data on human spermatogonial numbers were used to create Z-scores for reference means and tested on archived testicular tissue samples.


Retrospective cohort study.


The sample cohort comprised testicular samples from 24 boys with cancer diagnosis and 10 with Klinefelter syndrome, as part of the fertility preservation programs NORDFERTIL and Androprotect, as well as archived histologic samples from 35 prepubertal boys with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and 20 testicular biobank samples.



Main Outcome Measure(s)

Z-score values for S/T and fertility index on the basis of morphology and germ cell-specific markers (MAGEA4 and/or DDX4) were calculated, and the impact of cancer therapy exposure and genetic disorders on Z-score values was evaluated.


The Z-scores for S/T values in the nontreated samples (−2.08 ± 2.20, n = 28) and samples treated with nonalkylating agents (−1.90 ± 2.60, n = 25) were comparable within ±3 standard deviations of the reference mean value but differed significantly from samples exposed to alkylating agents (−12.14 ± 9.20, n = 22) and from patients with Klinefelter syndrome (−11.56 ± 4.89, n = 8). The Z-scores for S/T were correlated with increasing cumulative exposure to alkylating agents (r = −0.7020).


The Z-score values for S/T allow for the quantification of genetic and cancer treatment-related effects on testicular tissue stored for fertility preservation, facilitating their use for patient counseling.

Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.