To address the problem, the U.S Department of Defense has been funding a pioneering stem-cell research project in order to make veteran infertility a problem of the past.
The idea is to create lab-grown testicles for soldiers whose injuries mean they cannot conceive.
More than 50,000 American soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. The majority of these casulaties came as a consqeuence of 'the single most effective weapon against deployed forces' for the region, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
Joint Force Explosive Ordanace Disposal Team conducting high-risk search patrols on the training compound at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
The devastating effects of these explosions were felt by veterans who, having had amputations, live with prosthetics to aid their rehabilitation.
But for some soldiers returning from war, not all injuries had an immediate, visible effect, and some of the wounds weren't evident until years after the injury.
440 soldiers wounded in Iraq came back home with injuries affecting their fertility, making it near-impossible to conceive children naturally.
Many were left with fertility issues, leaving them to figure out how, or if, they could have children.
Waking from a coma after leaving the battlefield and operating table, the first question a wounded service member often says is:
“How’s my junk?”
If the diagnosis was bad for the soldier, then options were traditionally limited.
But Pentagon-backed research at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina has transformed the outlook for soldiers suffering from genital injuries.
"The future plans are to grow the testicular tissue, expand the cells and put it back into the patient,” he told Motherboard, a technology news website. “But for a whole testicle, there is a very rich blood-vessel supply and that’s the challenge. We can make them small, but we’re working hard to make them larger.”