Artificial Ovary To Help Women Conceive After Chemotherapy

Cancer is one of the world’s biggest killers with 6 million women diagnosed with it every year. After effective treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, many women are at risk of being left infertile.

Scientists from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark are working to create an artificial ovary made from human tissue and eggs that could help women eventually conceive.

Since the 1970’s men have had the option of sperm banking when about to undergo fertility-compromising treatments. Unlike their male counterparts, fertility preservation has been logistically challenging for women. It also costs ten times more than what it costs to preserve semen.

In a three-day chemical process, Danish researchers have been able to grow human follicles on artificial ovaries made of ovarian tissue from cancer patients. The tissue taken from the patient was removed from the cells which left a “scaffold” of the original tissue. The early stage follicles are then attached to it.

The hope is that this could restore a woman’s fertility by implanting the ovary back into the body.

“The beauty of this is that many of the women who are having ovarian grafts can go and get pregnant naturally, and don’t need to go through IVF.” Says Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist and reproductive surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The artificial ovary would also help women with issues such as a multiple sclerosis and the blood disorder beta thalassaemia

Ariella Shikanov, biomedical engineer from the University of Michigan says, “It’s the next step towards a big discovery, where we can actually get fertilizable human ovocytes [eggs].”

Despite it being considered as “exciting development” by Nick Macklon, medical director at London Women’s Clinic, there is still further research that needs to be conducted for it to prove its effectiveness on humans.

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