Artificial Ovary Offers Potential for Cancer Patients' Fertility

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

The work is an important proof-of-concept, which may pave the way for developing artificial ovaries for women undergoing cancer treatment.

The improved ovarian tissues were then transplanted into mice, who were able to support the survival and growth of the ovarian cells. She presented the results at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual conference in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.

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.

There are also implanted artificial ovaries, that can help women with a diagnosis, such as multiple sclerosis or with the blood disorder beta thalassemia, which usually require therapies which are aggressive and which can harm fertility. But scientists said using the original frozen tissue runs the risk of the cancer returning - this risk is high for patients with leukaemia and cancers originating in the ovary. For making the artificial ovary, the doctors reportedly stripped off the cells from the donated ovarian tissues using chemicals. 'With the evidence they've shown, I think there's a reasonable chance it will, ' he said.

Women can now undergo an ovarian tissue transplant, where some or part of the ovary is removed and frozen, then replanted when they reach remission. This scaffold was then seeded with early-stage follicles.

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According to the researchers, their lab-made ovary could preserve human eggs for weeks at a time.

Normally, the procedure is safe for most women, however, when it comes to certain types of cancer, like ovarian or leukemia, the ovarian tissue can be invalidated. This left a decellularized scaffold consisting of proteins and collagen.

Experts expect the treatment to be offered to women within three years.

Daniel Brison, scientific director of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Manchester, said the new research is "a very interesting and novel" approach to fertility preservation.

If the testing on humans prove to be successful in the future, these artificial ovaries could be the answer to cancer-surviving women getting pregnant "naturally", as opposed to IVF where an egg is fertilized in a laboratory and then returned to the womb. Renewed hormonal function occurred in 95% of these women, and more than 100 children have been conceived after the tissue transfers.

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