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Fertility hope for chemotherapy patients

11 March 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 249

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 journal this week. Dr Oktay has been at the forefront of research in this area: in 1999 he was part of a team that was the first to successfully transplant ovarian tissue that had been frozen, and in 2000, in another experiment, the team successfully retrieved eggs from a second woman, although this did not result in pregnancy.

The research team took ovarian tissue from a 30-year old woman before she underwent cancer treatment that rendered her sterile. Six years later, the team thawed the stored tissue, then implanted 15 ovarian pieces beneath the skin of the woman's abdominal wall. The team continued to monitor oestrogen levels in the woman's blood, and gave her drugs to stimulate ovulation. Over a period of eight months, they were able to collect 20 eggs. Eight were of good enough quality to be fertilised, which was done using her husband's sperm. Only one of the fertilised eggs developed as normal, and underwent cell division to develop into an four-celled embryo. This was implanted into the woman's uterus, although no pregnancy resulted.

Dr Oktay's team, which have so far collected and stored ovarian tissue from 50 cancer patients, says that the experiment demonstrates that ovarian function and therefore fertility 'can be preserved in women by long-term ovarian banking'. The study concludes: 'Even though the final proof of success of ovarian cryopreservation and transplantation procedure will be a viable pregnancy in human beings, with the development of a human embryo, prospects for a pregnancy and live born are now more promising'. The team will now try again to achieve a pregnancy in the same woman.

In a commentary published alongside the Lancet article, Dr Johan Smitz, from the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, said that all patients should be made aware that the ovary freezing technique is 'still experimental' and that 'meticulous medical attention' should be paid to any children born.

Meanwhile, a team based at Oregon Health and Sciences University in the US has published details of the first monkey born using an egg taken from transplanted ovarian tissue. The breakthrough, first announced at a conference last year, is published in the journal Nature.

Babies at 50 and an end to the menopause?
The Times |  9 March 2004
Commentary: Oocyte developmental competence after heterotopic transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue
The Lancet |  9 March 2004
Embryo created using frozen ovary
Nature |  9 March 2004
Embryo development after heterotopic transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue
The Lancet |  9 March 2004
17 November 2008 - by Adam Fletcher 
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...
27 September 2004 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
This week, BioNews reports on the world's first baby born following a transplant of frozen, thawed ovary tissue. This is the first success for a technique that promises to benefit thousands of women who would otherwise lose their fertility forever. Ouarda Touriat, who underwent lifesaving cancer treatment that left her...
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...
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...
16 June 2004 - by BioNews 
Canadian doctors have reported a new method for preserving the fertility of women undergoing cancer treatment, which they say offers an alternative to embryo and ovarian tissue freezing. In a recent letter to the Lancet medical journal, the team describe the removal of immature eggs from the ovaries of young...
13 October 2003 - by BioNews 
US scientists have carried out the world's first successful ovary tissue transplant in a primate, and have used one of the resulting eggs to produce a healthy IVF baby monkey. Team leader David Lee, of Oregon University, said it was the first time transplanted ovarian tissue had been used to...
15 November 1999 - by BioNews 
The doctors involved in pioneering ovarian graft surgery, with the potential to treat sufferers of premature menopause and restore cancer victims' fertility, remained upbeat about the process despite reports that the initial operation has not been as successful as was hoped. The operation, carried out in February this year, involved...
27 September 1999 - by BioNews 
Scientists have transplanted ovarian tissue into a woman for the first time. In a procedure that had only been carried out in animals, ovarian tissue, which had previously been removed from a woman and frozen, was transplanted back into her body. The breakthrough was made by Professor Roger Gosden of...
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