Scientists create ‘artificial ovary’ to help women left infertile from cancer therapy

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These artificial ovaries could even help the women having health conditions like the blood ailment beta thalassemia or multiple sclerosis, which usually need dynamic fertility-harming treatments.

The research stems from initiatives to preserve a woman's fertility while she undergoes cancer treatment.

Hoping to provide a better option, Dr Pors and her colleagues started tinkering with ways to bioengineer a type of ovarian tissue that is guaranteed to be free of cancerous cells but still maintains the organ's functionality.

Hence, to combat such a risk completely, the researchers from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen chose to develop artificial ovaries for patients who were due to undergo cancer treatment.

The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and has not been tested inside humans. She presented the results at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual conference in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.

This second option is used less often than the first due to concerns that the ovarian tissue that is removed before treatment might contain malignant cells and, when it's implanted, cancer could be reintroduced into a woman's body.

"If this is shown to be effective, it offers huge advantages over IVF [In vitro fertilisation] and egg freezing".

They then removed the cancerous cells from the ovarian tissue, leaving behind a "scaffold" made up of proteins and collagen. It was this bioengineered scaffold on which the isolated early-stage follicles then attached to. "This is early days for the work but it's a very interesting proof of concept". This scaffold she explained originates from the woman's own tissues or from donated tissues.

He added that the new technique transplants only the eggs and surrounding cells of the follicle (seeded into a matrix) back into the uterus.

The approach has been garnering praise from the scientific community, but more research is needed.

The development, which could be available within three years, means women with malfunctioning ovaries can look forward to getting pregnant naturally.

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.

"This work could eventually develop into an artificial ovary in five or 10 years, but I don't know if there are many women who could make use of this", said Daniel Brison, scientific director of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Manchester. Renewed hormonal function occurred in 95% of these women, and more than 100 children have been conceived after the tissue transfers.