Published: Thu, July 05, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Artificial ovary gives hope to women with cancer

Artificial ovary gives hope to women with cancer

Researchers from one of the leading fertility centres in Europe, Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, say they have demonstrated the world's first working "bio-engineered" human ovary in early animal trials. They then transplanted this structure into mice and found that it could support the survival and growth of the follicles.

A paper presented Monday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology shows how scientists are creating the framework for artificial ovaries.

In an attempt to help prevent infertility among these groups, researchers from Denmark have, for the first time, been able to isolate and grow human follicles on a bioengineered ovarian "scaffold" made of ovarian tissue - an artificial ovary.

Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director of Create Fertility, told HuffPostUK it was an "exciting development which gives hope to young women with cancer ". But scientists said using the original frozen tissue runs the risk of the cancer returning - this risk is high for patients with leukaemia and cancers originating in the ovary. Therefore, women are advised to take measures to preserve their fertility before undergoing treatment.

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One way women can preserve their chances of conceiving is with an ovarian tissue transplant, where all or part of the ovary is removed and frozen before it is damaged so that it can be used at a later date.

The decellularised scaffold was made up of a mix of the proteins and collagens left behind. The doctors then seeded this scaffold with hundreds of human follicles, the tiny sacs that hold early-stage eggs.

As a proof-of-concept, Pors said it could offer a new strategy in fertility preservation without risk of cancer reoccurrence.

The technology has already been tested on mice: a quarter of the transplanted follicles alive more than 3 weeks, during this time, the sample became "overgrown" with new blood vessels and received access to the necessary substances.

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"At this stage many questions remain", said Anderson, who was not involved in the research.

For most patients, the process is said to be safe, yet certain tumors, for example, ovarian or leukemia, can attack the ovarian tissue as well. Renewed hormonal function occurred in 95% of these women, and more than 100 children have been conceived after the tissue transfers.

A review published this year by Pors and her co-authors reported that a total of 318 women worldwide had undergone ovarian tissue transfers, with nine receiving a diagnosis of cancer afterward (in all cases not directly caused by the procedure).

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