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Clinic for freezing ovarian tissue planned in the UK

23 April 2012
Appeared in BioNews 653

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.

The procedure involves removing part of an ovary, which is then stored in liquid nitrogen for possible future use. Researchers say when the ovarian tissue is thawed and re-grafted onto the patient's ovary, it could start producing eggs within a few months.

The procedure is currently only available in a few countries, including the United States, Denmark, and Belgium, and according to the Daily Mail just 19 babies have been born following use of the technique so far. Most of the women who have received the treatment have been cancer patients hoping to preserve their ovarian tissue in case it is damaged by chemotherapy.

A recent case report, published in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online, studying three patients in Europe and the USA who had undergone ovarian transplantation concluded it was a 'valid method of fertility preservation' and encouraged use of the technique in both clinical settings and to 'expand the reproductive and endocrine lifespan of women'. All three women maintained ovarian function for more than seven years. In total eight babies were born after the three women had a graft each.

'The majority of children derived from ovary tissue transplantation have been born following natural conception. This result strengthens the fact that transplantation to the remaining post-menopausal ovary provides a suitable environment to support follicular development and enable conception without assistance', stated the report, co-authored by Professor Claus Yding Andersen at the University of Copenhagen and other researchers in Denmark.

In addition to these three cases, the study reports the success of transplantation (multiple times in some cases) in all other women in the study centres' programmes.

The procedure to remove, store and re-implant the tissue could cost as much as £16,000, reports the Daily Mail, compared to around £5,000 for egg freezing and £4,000 for a cycle of IVF.

Dr Gedis Grudzinskas, a consultant in infertility and gynaecology, is planning to open a clinic in central London offering the procedure within the next six months. 'This technology is so much more efficient than we thought it would be. If a woman is having cancer treatment there are few options. She can freeze her eggs but the quality of this technology varies. Women in their late 20s might consider freezing their eggs until they meet Mr Right', he said.

Dr Grudzinskas is currently awaiting licence approval by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority, reports the Daily Mail.

However, there are concerns expressed by some doctors who predict that having ovarian tissue removed early in life could impair a woman's chance of having a baby. Dr Gillian Lockwood of Midland Fertility Services, said: 'In the case of cancer patients who've got nothing to lose it has great potential. But for social reasons I don't believe it should be recommended. It could cause scarring or damage to the pelvis that could make it difficult to conceive naturally'.

Long-term duration of function of ovarian tissue transplants: case reports
Reproductive BioMedicine Online |  9 April 2012
Now women can delay motherhood by freezing their ovaries and having them re-implanted years later
Daily Mail |  15 April 2012
Transplants can stop the menopause
Independent |  26 March 2012
Women able to delay motherhood through ovary freezing
Telegraph |  16 April 2012
11 April 2022 - by Grace Dugdale and Professor Adam Balen 
Recently the 'reality' television star Kourtney Kardashian claimed that the IVF treatment she received had 'put her into the menopause' in the trailer for a new series of 'Meet the Kardashians'...
12 September 2016 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
Following the increase in 'social' egg freezing, the ten-year time limit on the storage of human eggs should be removed, according to a leading academic at the London School of Economics....
12 October 2015 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
A Danish study has reported that ovarian tissue transplants appear to be safe and can restore fertility in women who have undergone treatment for cancer, with around one in three procedures in young women leading to live births....
10 August 2015 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
The ban on single women freezing their eggs in China has been heavily criticised on social media after a Chinese actress revealed that she had travelled to the USA in 2013 to have her eggs cryopreserved...
9 March 2015 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
I arrived with some bemusement at this one-hour debate, 'Does egg-freezing enable women to "have it all"', to Beyoncé playing out loudly to an excited lecture theatre...
16 April 2012 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a new strategy to increase awareness of egg and sperm donation and to improve the care of donors. It aims to address perceived obstacles to donor recruitment aired during its consultation on gamete donation last year....
16 May 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
A fertility clinic in Amsterdam has announced it is to offer egg freezing techniques on social grounds despite professional bodies recommending that the procedure be investigated further....
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...
6 October 2008 - by Dr John Parsons 
Nataly Atalla's uncritical advertorial 'freeze and share: an evolution of egg sharing' in BioNews 476 (week 15/9/2008 - 21/9/2008) did not address a number of important points. I would have expected some comment on the success rate of the vitrification technique in their hands. She cites 100,000...
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