Artificial Ovaries Might Be The Way To Go For Cancer-Surviving Women

If researchers were able to successfully construct an artificial ovary that could allow cancer patients to preserve their fertility, they would open up a door of possibilities when it comes to fertility preservation.

'This is the first time that isolated human follicles have survived in a decellularised human scaffold, ' said Dr Susanne Pors at the Rigshospitalet Laboratory of Reproductive Biology in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The team then grew ovarian follicles on this scaffold of ovarian tissue. These women often can not save their ovarian tissue for fertility, because of fear of remaining cancer cells.

The chemical process left a "decellularized scaffold" made up of proteins and collagens, the normal material that connect cells. Stuart Lavery, consultant gynecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, sees the artificial ovary as an enormous stride forward with distinct advantages over IVF and egg freezing. One option is to remove and freeze some of her eggs so that after her cancer has been treated and she's ready for a child, she can attempt in-vitro fertilization.

Danish doctors have developed an "artificial ovary" from human tissue and eggs that could help women have children after chemotherapy and other medical treatments that can damage their fertility. She presented the work at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESGRE) annual meeting in Barcelona today. Ovarian tissue and egg filled follicles can be safely removed and stripped of any DNA that could hold the coding for cancerous cells, creating an empty scaffold into which the harvested eggs can be integrated. Next, early stage follicles are thawed and reintroduced into the scaffold in the lab. This new finding could most expectantly help women one day to have families even after receiving harsh treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

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".

Experts said the "exciting" technique needed to be tested in humans. 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.

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. Further, she added, "But it will be many years before we can put this into a woman".

Vanessa Coleman

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