Early Success in Artificial Ovary Research

The study promises hope for infertile women

The study promises hope for infertile women

Nick Macklon, medical director at London Women's Clinic, said that while there was a low risk of contracting cancer from frozen ovarian tissue, it is a danger that doctors take seriously.

"The artificial ovary will consist of a scaffold (originating from the woman's own tissue or from donated tissue) combined with her own follicles", Pors wrote in an email.

The team in Copenhagen showed that a lab-made ovary could keep human eggs alive for weeks at a time, which is a method that could eventually be used to help women have families after harsh treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer.

The decellularised scaffold was made up of a mix of the proteins and collagens left behind.

In further experiments on mice, she said they found that the ovarian cells were "successfully repopulating".

The "groundbreaking" experiment was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Barcelona on Monday and is due to be published as a study in a peer-reviewed journal.

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An artificial ovary that can grow immature eggs into a fertilisable cell fit for implantation could one day let women become mothers after fertility-destroying cancer treatment, scientists have said. They then seeded the scaffold with the early-stage follicles. In these conditions, the solution is transplantation of a tissue of the ovary.

Many cancer treatments can damage the ovaries, stopping the body from producing eggs and meaning a woman cannot get pregnant. It can even work for women who go through menopause early.

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". While some women and girls can opt to have their ovaries removed and frozen for re-implantation after cancer recovery, patients whose reproductive organs are the site of their cancer have fewer options.

A review published this year by Pors and her co-authors reported that a total of 318 women worldwide had undergone ovarian tissue transfers, with nine receiving a diagnosis of cancer afterward (in all cases not directly caused by the procedure).

The technique, she added, would be applicable to cancer patients having cryopreserved ovarian tissue transplanted for fertility restoration. "It's an important step along the road".

Scientists say that human trials will start no earlier than 5-10 years.

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