Freezing ovarian tissue may provide a viable option for women who want to preserve their fertility, according to a recent study.
For many women, for example those undergoing cancer treatment, freezing their eggs provides them with a possibility of getting pregnant later in life. However, collecting eggs for freezing can take time and is not always an option for women who need to undergo urgent treatment.
In a recent study, published in Reproductive Sciences, doctors from New York Medical College suggest that freezing ovarian tissue could offer an alternative for such women.
'The procedure is superior to egg freezing as it can also reverse menopause and restore natural fertility' said senior study author Dr Kutluk Oktay, one of the pioneers of the technique.
The researchers carried out a meta-analysis of existing reports on the procedure that have been published between 1999 and 2016. They identified a total of 19 studies and analysed data from these on a total of 309 women who had undergone ovarian tissue transplantation.
Based on these studies, the scientists found that the treatment was successful at restoring reproductive functions or reversing the menopause in two thirds of the women. In total, 84 babies had been born following ovarian tissue transplant, as well as eight ongoing pregnancies.
'Despite the clinical progress within the past two decades, the procedure still remains in the experimental realm,' said co-author Dr Fernanda Pacheco. 'Now, women considering this procedure to preserve fertility and postpone childbearing have more information at their disposal. Given these recent data, ovarian tissue cryopreservation should be considered as a viable option for fertility preservation.'
However, more research is still needed: 'the data we have on fertility preservation is pretty poor,' Jake Anderson, cofounder of FertilityIQ, told TIME. 'There are lots of small, single-centre studies which lack the rigour and generalizability of a multi-centre, prospective trial. It's still unclear how many women will actually come back and use what they've preserved.'
Dr Kutluk wants to find out if the technique can help other women prolong fertility: 'The next frontier is to explore the procedure's potential in delaying childbearing among healthy women, not just cancer patients.'