An artificial ovary for fertility preservation without the risk of reintroducing malignancy

Pregnant

Pregnant

An "artificial ovary" could reduce this risk. 'With the evidence they've shown, I think there's a reasonable chance it will, ' he said.

Because our current anti-cancer standbys - chemotherapy and radiotherapy - often damage the stash of follicles present in each woman's ovaries since birth, those who want to conceive after treatment have two options: have a handful of these cell clusters harvested beforehand then turn to IVF when they reach remission, or have the entire ovary harvested then re-implanted.

An alternative involves removing ovarian tissue before treatment, freezing it, and returning it to the body after.

In this new research, scientists in Denmark removed ovarian follicles and ovarian tissue from women due to have cancer treatment.

Commenting on the research, Professor Nick Macklon, medical director at London Women's Clinic, said it was an "exciting development". One option is to remove and freeze some of her eggs so that after her cancer has been treated and she's ready for a child, she can attempt in-vitro fertilization. The team used a chemical process to strip the ovarian tissues' cells of DNA and other features which could contain the faulty instructions for cancer cells' unconstrained growth. This left a bare tissue "scaffold" made largely of collagen, the protein that gives skin its strength.

The team has developed a "scaffold" that can hold the ova in their early stages and help them develop into the ovarian follicles that are fully functional small sacs filled with fluid containing the eggs.

About 2% of women of reproductive age who have cancer and go through treatment are at risk of losing their ovarian function - and thus their fertility.

Though this approach might work, he concluded that "it is not possible to tell until the data from this research group have been peer-reviewed by the scientific community and published in a scientific journal".

For most patients the procedure is safe, but certain cancers, such as ovarian or leukaemia, can invade the ovarian tissue itself.

Study's author and postdoctoral fellow, Susanne Pors from the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen Rigshospitalet said in a statement, "We have now done the first important steps towards constructing a cancer-free ovary.We have many more studies to do, but this is a proof-of-concept showing that human eggs can survive on a newly constructed scaffold".

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

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