Artificial ovary fertility treatment developed by scientists

The team discovered that a laboratory-made ovary can keep eggs of humans alive for several weeks. When she is ready for pregnancy, she can opt for in vitro fertilization methods, they explain. The researchers took early-stage follicles from women who were having their ovarian tissue frozen in order to preserve their fertility.

Researchers from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, report today that they have for the first time isolated and grown human follicles to a point of "biofunctionality" on a bioengineered ovarian scaffold made of "decellularised" ovarian tissue. Though a good deal more tests are needed, a series of initial experiments suggest that the structure is capable of supporting ovarian follicles as they mature into oocytes, aka egg cells.

Their experiments used ovarian tissue removed from women trying to preserve their fertility before cancer treatment.

Speaking about it, study leader Dr Susanne Pors, from Rigshospitalet, in Copenhagen, said that it could offer a new strategy in fertility preservation. They then implanted ovarian follicles or immature egg cells on the artificially engineered scaffold of ovarian tissue. This new method shows promise for women undergoing cancer treatments who are wanting to conceive after their treatment.

The group in Copenhagen demonstrated that a lab-made ovary could sustain life of human eggs for a considerable length of time at once, raising expectations that the approach would someday be able to aid women in starting families of their own after undergoing hard procedures, for example, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. "This is early days for the work but it's a very interesting proof of concept". This could result in the disease returning back again after the transplant.

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".

About 2% of women of reproductive age who have cancer and go through treatment are at risk of losing their ovarian function - and thus their fertility.

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

For most patients the procedure is safe, but certain cancers, such as ovarian or leukaemia, can invade the ovarian tissue itself. It would most expectantly take about five to ten years of rigorous work before the artificial ovaries get completely prepared for human use.

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