Progress made in ar­ti­fi­cial ovaries

Irish Examiner - - World News - Sally War­dle

Sci­en­tists have made “ex­cit­ing” progress in the de­vel­op­ment of ar­ti­fi­cial “ovaries” to help pre­serve women’s fer­til­ity.

Im­ma­ture eggs have been shown in a lab­o­ra­tory to sur­vive on ovar­ian tis­sue that was re­moved from can­cer pa­tients be­fore treat­ment and stripped of cells.

It is hoped this en­gi­neered struc­ture could be re-im­planted into women and re­store fer­til­ity, af­ter they have com­pleted chemo­ther­apy or ra­dio­ther­apy.

Sci­en­tists from the Rigshos­pi­talet, in Copen­hagen, Den­mark, proved the graft worked when us­ing hu­man tis­sue trans­planted into mice. Ex­perts said the re­search, pre­sented at the Euro­pean So­ci­ety of Hu­man Re­pro­duc­tion and Em­bry­ol­ogy (ESHRE) an­nual meet­ing in Barcelona, “holds much prom­ise for the fu­ture”.

Many can­cer treat­ments can dam­age the ovaries, stop­ping the body from pro­duc­ing eggs and mean­ing a woman can­not get preg­nant.

Women who have can­cer can have their eggs frozen, while some doc­tors may of­fer to re­move or freeze all or part of an ovary, so it can be trans­planted back af­ter treat­ment. How­ever, there is a small chance that grafted ovar­ian tis­sue could rein­tro­duce can­cer cells. A ‘bio-en­gi­neered’ ovary would re­duce this risk.

Their ex­per­i­ments used ovar­ian tis­sue re­moved from women try­ing to pre­serve their fer­til­ity be­fore can­cer treat­ment. The cells from the tis­sue were elim­i­nated us­ing chem­i­cals, leav­ing be­hind a “bio-en­gi­neered scaf­fold” on which the early-stage egg con­tain­ing fol­li­cles were re­seeded.

Dr Su­sanne Pors, who pre­sented the re­search, said: “This is the first time that iso­lated hu­man fol­li­cles have sur­vived in a de­cel­lu­larised hu­man scaf­fold and, as a proof-of-con­cept, it could of­fer a new strat­egy in fer­til­ity preser­va­tion, with­out risk of ma­lig­nant-cell re­cur­rence.”

Ex­per­i­ments in which the struc­ture was trans­planted into mice showed it could sup­port the sur­vival and growth of the fol­li­cles.

Pro­fes­sor Nick Mack­lon, med­i­cal di­rec­tor at London Women’s Clinic, said it was an “ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ment”.

“They’ve been able to show that they can then in­tro­duce back into that tis­sue stored fol­li­cles and early growth eggs, that then ap­pear to grow in that ma­te­rial that’s had all the cells re­moved,” he said.

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