Artificial ovary could help women conceive after chemotherapy | Artificial Intelligence
Scientists have taken further steps in creating an artificial ovary that could one day used to help women who have been left infertile after cancer treatment.
Researchers from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, took ovarian tissue from cancer patients and stripped it of cells. They then transplanted this structure into mice and found that it could support the survival and growth of the follicles. Twenty follicles were transplanted in and a quarter of them survived for at least three weeks.
It is hoped that this artificial ovary could be implanted back into women and restore their fertility after cancer treatment.
“This is the first time that isolated human follicles have survived in a decellularised human scaffold,” said Susanne Por, who presented the work at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESGRE) annual meeting in Barcelona today.
Cancer treatments can often damage the ovaries, blocking the production of eggs and making pregnancy impossible.
Women diagnosed with cancer can have their eggs frozen. Sometimes, doctors may offer to remove or freeze all or part of an ovary for re-transplantation after treatment. However, this runs the risk of reintroducing cancer cells, as some cancers can spread to the ovaries. An “artificial ovary” could reduce this risk.
Nick Macklon, medical director at London Women’s Clinic, said this is an “exciting development” but added that further research is needed to prove its usefulness in humans.
Stuart Lavery, consultant gynaecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, said that if this is shown to be effective, it offers huge advantages over IVF and egg freezing.
“Because potentially these small pieces of tissue will have thousands of eggs and clearly if it does work, there’s the advantage of then getting pregnant the old-fashioned way,” says Lavery.
Artificial ovaries could also one day help relieve women of some of the symptoms of the menopause.
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