An early advance in efforts to develop artificial ovaries for women with cancer who are at risk of becoming infertile has been achieved by scientists. Ovarian tissue and egg filled follicles can be safely removed and stripped of any DNA that could hold the coding for cancerous cells, creating an empty scaffold into which the harvested eggs can be integrated.
The new research is an attempt to remove the possibility of reintroducing cancer in the original tissue.
The research is to be presented at the 34th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona, Spain by the study's co-author, Dr. Susanne Pors, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen Rigshospitalet.
Implanted artificial ovaries might also help women with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and the blood disorder beta thalassaemia, which can require aggressive fertility-harming therapies, along with patients who go through an early menopause. They removed cancer cells from the ovarian tissue, leaving behind a "scaffold" made up of proteins and collagen, BBC News reported.
Brison did say the work could contribute to a larger body of research on how eggs develop and generally, how the ovary works. The technique involves removing parts of a woman's ovary and altering them so they can be kept and transplanted for future conception.
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During their experiment, the researchers used a three-day chemical process to ensure that all traces of cancer were eliminated.
Experiments in which the structure was transplanted into mice showed it could support the survival and growth of the follicles. "This is early days for the work but it's a very interesting proof of concept", said Nick Macklon, a medical director at London Women's Clinic.
"And, that this can then be placed back into the body and hopefully allow women to re-establish their cycles to possibly conceive, either naturally or with IVF, while reducing this risk of cancer". When she is ready for pregnancy, she can opt for in vitro fertilization methods, they explain.
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.
Now their best option is to freeze their eggs before problems in the ovary start and then undergo potentially gruelling IVF.