A US woman who had part of her identical twin sister's ovary surgically transplanted into her body is reported to be pregnant. Stephanie Yarber, aged 25, had the transplant operation in April this year in the hope that it would restore her fertility. Tissue was removed from Melanie's ovary, divided into three parts, and two of these parts were grafted onto one of Stephanie's failed ovaries. The third part was frozen in case it was needed in the future.
Stephanie had undergone premature menopause at the age of 13 - her ovaries stopped functioning and she became infertile. She and her husband tried a number of times to have a child both naturally and using IVF, including two cycles using eggs donated by her twin sister Melanie, but without success. Melanie was not affected by premature menopause and has three children conceived naturally.
Doctors have been working on ovarian transplantation techniques for a long time. As with other forms of organ or tissue transplant, one of the main problems is rejection by the body's immune system. So transplanting ovarian tissue from an unrelated woman would require the use of immunosuppressant drugs, which may themselves affect ovulation and fertility. For this reason, it is unlikely that there will be many ovarian transplants from woman to woman. But an identical twin, sharing the same genetic information, seemed like the ideal candidate to donate functioning ovarian tissue.
The medical team, led by Dr Sherman Silber at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, said at the time that the surgery had gone well and that they expected Stephanie to start ovulating within three months. They also said that, after that time, they expected that she would be able to conceive naturally. Stephanie found out early last week that she was pregnant, after using a home testing kit and confirming the result with her doctor. Her reaction was to immediately telephone her sister, who said that she announced 'I'm pregnant! Praise the Lord!'