Artificial Ovary Offers Potential for Cancer Patients' Fertility

The study promises hope for infertile women

Medics already know how to remove, cryo-preserve and then re-implant ovary tissue once harsh treatment is complete.

Researchers from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, report today that they have for the first time isolated and grown human follicles to a point of "biofunctionality" on a bioengineered ovarian scaffold made of "decellularised" ovarian tissue. When they're cancer-free, the tissue will be put right back on, the women can go through the normal process of pregnancy, then birth - they will be able to deliver naturally.

Artificial ovaries bring new hopes for young cancer patients, as a team of Danish researchers pointing at the novel treatment that they hope one day will be for such patients who can not conceive naturally.

First, they experimented on human tissue donated by patients attempting fertility preservation.

According to BBC News, a team of scientists at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen has developed a new technique to provide options and reduce the risk for women who have uterine or ovarian cancer.

But there is a small risk that in those with cancer the ovarian tissue may contain cancerous cells, raising the chances of the illness returning when the transplant takes place.

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Implanted artificial ovaries might also help women with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and the blood disorder beta thalassaemia, which can require aggressive fertility-harming therapies, along with patients who go through an early menopause. The study will be presented at the 34th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Spain. Next, early stage follicles are thawed and reintroduced into the scaffold in the lab.

For women who have undergone chemotherapy and wish to have children of their own, there could be some glimmer of hope.

Though this approach might work, he concluded that "it is not possible to tell until the data from this research group have been peer-reviewed by the scientific community and published in a scientific journal".

Dr. Richard Anderson, a professor and head of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement that an artificial ovary capable of supporting development of the follicle and the egg within it "would be very valuable scientifically" in that it would help scientists "develop new tests and perhaps treatments for infertility".

The team took and froze ovarian tissue from patients scheduled to undergo treatment which would likely compromise their ovarian function. In the end, it could restore the woman's ability to conceive children.

Most chemotherapy drugs can damage a woman's eggs, affecting her fertility.

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