Published: Thu, July 05, 2018
Medical | By

Artificial Ovary to Help Cancer-Stricken Women to Conceive

Artificial Ovary to Help Cancer-Stricken Women to Conceive

Important steps in the development of an artificial ovary have been successfully completed by one of the world's leading groups in fertility preservation. These women often can not save their ovarian tissue for fertility, because of fear of remaining cancer cells. Pors, on Monday, would be addressing and telling in a yearly meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology at Barcelona, about the method with which the team implanted the artificial ovary.

"They've been able to show that they can then introduce back into that tissue stored follicles and early-growth eggs, that then appear to grow in that material that's had all the cells removed", he said.

Prepubertal girls or women who need urgent treatment before they produce eggs, rely on ovarian tissue, which contains thousands of immature eggs in fluid-filled sacs called follicles, to be preserved instead with the aim of transplanting it after treatment.

Susanne Pors and others at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen accept artificial ovaries could be a more secure alternative.

The discovery has been hailed as "exciting" by fertility experts.

Because our current anti-cancer standbys - chemotherapy and radiotherapy - often damage the stash of follicles present in each woman's ovaries since birth, those who want to conceive after treatment have two options: have a handful of these cell clusters harvested beforehand then turn to IVF when they reach remission, or have the entire ovary harvested then re-implanted. The team developed the scaffold over three-days by using chemicals to strip the ovarian tissue of all of its cells. This new study attempts to use the ovarian tissues outside of the body in the labs rather than risk reintroducing the tissues along with the cancer. Such treatments increase the risk of infertility as they can stop the ovaries from working properly.

The approach has been garnering praise from the scientific community, but more research is needed. "This is early days for the work but it's a very interesting proof of concept", said Nick Macklon, a medical director at London Women's Clinic. Per the Guardian, scientists have created an artificial ovary out of human tissue and eggs, and that ovary's performance on tests is encouraging.

For young female cancer patients wanting to preserve their fertility, ovarian tissue transfer that can restore menstrual cycles and allow the woman to get pregnant "the old-fashioned way" - since hundreds of eggs remain intact within the follicles - would be a huge advantage over freezing a few eggs.

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