Cancer Patients Could Preserve Fertility With Artificial Ovary

Grant Boone
July 5, 2018

The new study can reportedly help women undergoing treatments for cancer like chemotherapy and radiotherapy which are extremely damaging to the ovaries and usually leave women infertile.

Experts say the work is "exciting" but human testing is still needed.

However, there is a slight risk that the ovarian tissue may contain cancer cells, putting a woman at risk for the return of her cancer. She will present the findings of this latest study today (2nd of July 2018) at the 34th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona, Spain.

In an attempt to help prevent infertility among these groups, researchers from Denmark have, for the first time, been able to isolate and grow human follicles on a bioengineered ovarian "scaffold" made of ovarian tissue - an artificial ovary.

The cells from the tissue were eliminated using chemicals, leaving behind a "bio-engineered scaffold" on which the early-stage egg-containing follicles were reseeded.

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A way to prevent such damage is to have an ovarian tissue transplant in which the parts or the entire ovary is removed and then frozen before the women undergo fertility harming treatments so that the frozen tissue can be put back at a later date. This left a decellularized scaffold consisting of proteins and collagen. "There have been certain cancers where we can't use this procedure because of this concern", he said. The doctors at that point seeded this platform with many human follicles, the small sacs that hold initial-stage eggs.

Do you believe that an artificial ovary transplant is the best solution to help any woman conceive? "This is the first time that isolated human follicles have survived in a decellularised human scaffold and, as a proof-of-concept, it could offer a new strategy in fertility preservation without risk of malignant cell re-occurrence", said Dr Susanne Pors, who led the Rigshospitalet team.

The new method removes this risk and could also work for girls, because they are born with a life supply of immature eggs.

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. This portion could then be used later when the woman wants to conceive.

The development, which could be available within three years, means women with malfunctioning ovaries can look forward to getting pregnant naturally.

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