Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Artificial ovaries could soon be a reality

Samantha Long | 04 July, 2018, 06:31

In this case, the scientists from the Rigshospitalet fertility center in Copenhagen were able to create an artificial ovary that could be used to grow immature egg cells into a form that could then later be transplanted back into the woman.

And Dr Gillian Lockwood, director of Midland Fertility Services, said the treatment could also prevent cancer patients facing premature menopause because their ovarian cells had been destroyed by chemotherapy.

The research is to be presented at the 34th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona, Spain by the study's co-author, Dr. Susanne Pors, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen Rigshospitalet.

The artificial ovary will be frozen until time for replacement in the woman's body (after recovery from cancer is complete.) The theory is that the eggs will then mature and release from the follicles naturally, prompted by the woman's normal hormonal cycle. "We have many more studies to do, but this is a proof-of-concept showing that human eggs can survive on a newly constructed scaffold".

A new option for fertility?

Two methods of fertility preservation are available.

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"If this is shown to be effective, it offers huge advantages over IVF [In vitro fertilisation] and egg freezing". The technique involves removing parts of a woman's ovary and altering them so they can be kept and transplanted for future conception. In the society's published opinion, the risk of reintroducing malignancy is "currently unknown for most types of cancer", although ovarian, leukemia and other blood-borne cancers are known to carry the greatest risk.

The artificial ovary would consist of the scaffold, which would come from the woman's own tissue or from donated tissue, combined with her own follicles. Ultimately, this could restore a woman's fertility.

There could be another way for women to have children after going through fertility-damaging cancer treatments.

In the experiment, native cells were eliminated by a three-day chemical process.

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 follicle is formed during fetal life [when no cancer is present] and is surrounded by a basal membrane that does not allow cancer cells to penetrate", she said. It contained proteins and collagens that can hold up the cells. Next, early stage follicles are thawed and reintroduced into the scaffold in the lab.

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