Artificial ovary may help some cancer patients, but it's far from ready

An artificial ovary for fertility preservation without the risk of reintroducing malignancy

An artificial ovary for fertility preservation without the risk of reintroducing malignancy

Scientists have successfully created an artificial ovary, which could have a major impact on the fertility of women going through cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Reproductologists "built" a fragment of tissue for transplantation, clearing the ovarian tissue from the "sick" cells with chemicals and transplanted it in the developing follicles of the female body.

Commenting on the research, Professor Nick Macklon, medical director at London Women's Clinic, said it was an "exciting development". To this end, the ovarian tissue is purified reagents from the cells, which could be affected by cancer, and left, the basis of connective tissue.

In their recent experiment, the scientists took ovarian follicles and tissue from patients before they received cancer treatment and proceeded to remove the cancerous cells from the collected tissue, filling up the gaps with a "scaffold" made up of proteins and collagen.

Most chemotherapy drugs can damage a woman's eggs, affecting her fertility. When she is ready for pregnancy, she can opt for in vitro fertilization methods, they explain.

But, as even the study's lead scientist, Dr. Susanne Pors, states, this amounts to a "proof of concept", if an "exciting" one.

He added that the new technique transplants only the eggs and surrounding cells of the follicle (seeded into a matrix) back into the uterus. The structure was then transplanted into mice, which showed that it could boost the growth and survival of the follicles.

The approach has been garnering praise from the scientific community, but more research is needed.

"At this stage many questions remain", said Anderson, who was not involved in the research.

The American Cancer Society reported that cancer treatments can drastically impact a woman's ability to conceive. They are thrust into premature menopause, and although the use of hormone replacement therapy and their own cryopreserved eggs allows some of these women to become pregnant, their natural hormones and natural fertility will not be renewed.

For most patients the procedure is safe, but certain cancers, such as ovarian or leukaemia, can invade the ovarian tissue itself.

The development achieved by researchers at the Rigshospitalet in Denmark, which could be available within three years, means women with malfunctioning ovaries can look forward to getting pregnant naturally. This portion could then be used later when the woman wants to conceive.

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