'Artificial ovary' marks big step for fertility preservation

Pregnant

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.

"It is a proof of concept at this stage and requires further work in humans to establish safety and efficacy", she said.

The latter method is considered unsafe, however, because scientists think the ovarian tissue might contain malignant cells, and thus, reintroduce cancer to the woman's body after being treated.

The findings of the study were disclosed through a research paper released during an annual meeting held by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology which provided more details about the way followed by the associated scientists to create the artificial ovaries.

Scientists from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, proved the graft worked when using human tissue transplanted into mice. However, this runs the risk of reintroducing cancer cells, as some cancers can spread to the ovaries. They then implanted ovarian follicles or immature egg cells on the artificially engineered scaffold of ovarian tissue.

The Danish experts suggest that a prototype of the artificial ovary.

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Their experiments used ovarian tissue removed from women trying to preserve their fertility before cancer treatment.

"This is an extremely important advance in the field of fertility preservation", said Adam Balen, professor of reproductive medicine and surgery at Seacroft Hospital, Leeds, Independent reported.

Follicles, unlike ovarian tissue cells, do not contain cancer, Pors said.

The decellularised scaffold was made up of a mix of the proteins and collagens left behind. This scaffold was then seeded with early-stage follicles. Pors and her co-authors concluded, "This is the first time that isolated human follicles have survived in a decellularized human scaffold". "But it will be many years before we can put this into a woman".

For most patients, the process is said to be safe, yet certain tumors, for example, ovarian or leukemia, can attack the ovarian tissue as well.

The technology has already been tested on mice: a quarter of the transplanted follicles alive more than 3 weeks, during this time, the sample became "overgrown" with new blood vessels and received access to the necessary substances.

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