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Jan-Bernd Stukenborg, Kirsi Jahnukainen, Marsida Hutka and Rod T Mitchell

Testicular function and future fertility may be affected by cancer treatment during childhood. Whilst survival of the germ (stem) cells is critical for ensuring the potential for fertility in these patients, the somatic cell populations also play a crucial role in providing a suitable environment to support germ cell maintenance and subsequent development. Regulation of the spermatogonial germ-stem cell niche involves many signalling pathways with hormonal influence from the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis. In this review, we describe the somatic cell populations that comprise the testicular germ-stem cell niche in humans and how they may be affected by cancer treatment during childhood. We also discuss the experimental models that may be utilized to manipulate the somatic environment and report the results of studies that investigate the potential role of somatic cells in the protection of the germ cells in the testis from cancer treatment.