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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter





Child born following whole ovary transplant

17 November 2008

By Adam Fletcher

Appeared in BioNews 484

A 39-year old woman has become the first to give birth following a whole ovary transplant. Susanne Butscher received an intact ovary from her fertile twin sister last year, during a landmark operation carried out by Dr Sherman Silber of the Infertility Centre of St Louis, Missouri US. Mrs Butscher became infertile after her ovaries failed at the age of 15. To date, eight women have given birth subsequent to receiving small sections of ovarian tissue. Yet this - the ninth case - has been lauded as a pioneering achievement in infertility treatment.

The birth of baby Maja last week should be celebrated, according to Dr Silber, during what he has labelled an 'infertility epidemic' that in the UK alone is affecting upwards of 100,000 women. Although a complicated procedure (the operation involves the reattachment of arteries one third of a millimetre in diameter), the transplant renews the ability to conceive naturally. It also restores hormone levels to those necessary for driving the menstrual cycle. Such hormones, like oestrogen and progesterone, also protect against osteoporosis.

Nonetheless, the majority of women affected by an early menopause are unlikely to have a fertile twin sister capable of donating an ovary. This would be necessary in order to avoid donor-rejection of foreign tissue, and to circumvent the need for immuno-suppressive drugs. But Dr Silber claims that, from a social perspective, it will be an attractive option for women wishing to extend fertility into their forties and fifties, perhaps to favour a career.

However the British Fertility Society (BFS) is opposed to what it calls an 'unethical application' of the operation, suggesting current methods, like egg storage, are less problematic. Laurence Shaw, consultant in reproductive medicine at the London Bridge Fertility Centre, London, and spokesperson for the BFS, said: 'I would have thought that the long-term freeze-storing of an ovary would cause as much harm as the deterioration due to age itself'.

The BFS instead endorses a more practical application of the operation. Women that face invasive cancer therapies like radiotherapy and chemotherapy (both of which reduce fertility) could have an ovary frozen pending an improvement in their condition. In such cases, ovary storage could be more suitable than egg extraction, as egg follicles must first be matured through a lengthy hormone treatment, causing unwanted delays to chemotherapy.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
BBC News Online | 12 November 2008
 
The Times | 11 November 2008
 
The Daily Mail | 12 November 2008
 
The Times | 09 November 2008
 
The Guardian | 12 November 2008
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

09 September 2013 - by Dr Daniel Grimes 
A woman in Australia has become pregnant with her own eggs following an ovarian tissue transplant seven years after her ovaries were removed during cancer treatment.... [Read More]
23 April 2012 - by Marianne Neary 
Women may soon be given the option of banking their ovarian tissue if a new clinic to offer the procedure opens in the UK. The technique allows women to freeze ovarian tissue containing eggs to use at a later date and could assist cancer patients and other women who hope to have children later in life.... [Read More]
05 July 2010 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
When ovaries from young mice were transplanted into aging females, the old mice lived longer and changed their reproductive behaviour, scientists from Japan have found. The findings raise the question of whether a similar effect may be seen in women receiving ovarian transplants... [Read More]
01 March 2010 - by Ruth Pidsley 
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06 August 2007 - by Katy Sinclair 
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25 September 2004 - by BioNews 
The first woman in the world to become pregnant following a transplant of her own frozen, thawed ovarian tissue has given birth to a healthy baby girl. In 1997, Ouarda Touirat, now aged 32, had parts of her ovaries removed before beginning treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma that would leave her... [Read More]
29 June 2004 - by BioNews 
BioNews reporting from the ESHRE conference, Berlin: Danish researchers have reported that they are on the verge of producing a pregnancy from frozen-thawed human ovarian tissue, while in Belgium it transpires that a woman is already 25 weeks pregnant following similar treatment - the first time this treatment has ever led... [Read More]
11 March 2004 - by BioNews 
Scientists in the US have become the first to produce a viable human embryo using an egg collected from ovarian tissue that had been kept in frozen storage. Dr Kutluk Oktay and colleagues from Cornell University Weill Medical College published their research in the early online version of The Lancet... [Read More]

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