'Artificial ovary' may help cancer patients

Leslie Hanson
July 4, 2018

Artificial ovaries could be a safer alternative to the current procedure for preserving fertility after harsh medical treatments.

Danish scientists have developed a new technology that could, theoretically, one day be used as a fertility method for cancer patients whose treatment has made it far more hard to conceive. This scaffold was then seeded with numerous human follicles, which are tiny sacs holding early-stage eggs. The work is an important proof-of-concept, which may pave the way for developing artificial ovaries for women undergoing cancer treatment.

The chemical process left a "decellularized scaffold" made up of proteins and collagens, the normal material that connect cells.

In further experiments on mice, she said they found that the ovarian cells were "successfully repopulating".

The research is to be presented at the 34th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona, Spain by the study's co-author, Dr. Susanne Pors, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen Rigshospitalet.

According to BBC News, a team of scientists at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen has developed a new technique to provide options and reduce the risk for women who have uterine or ovarian cancer.

The patients who might benefit from an artificial ovary, if one is created, are select women who have a type of cancer that causes malignant cells in their ovarian tissue, such as ovarian cancer and some blood-born cancers including leukemia.

Most cases of fertility preservation where ovarian tissue is frozen are performed ahead of cancer treatment.

The researchers then showed that these follicles could be supported by the ovarian scaffold in vitro. This could result in the disease returning back again after the transplant.

"The beauty of this is that numerous women who are having ovarian grafts can go and get pregnant naturally, and don't need to go through IVF".

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".

It'll be five to 10 years before artificial ovaries are ready for human trials, said lead researcher Susan Pors. This scaffold she explained originates from the woman's own tissues or from donated tissues. The second method is to remove part of the ovarian tissues before commencement of cancer therapy and freezing it. In the end, it could restore the woman's ability to conceive children. Renewed hormonal function occurred in 95% of these women, and more than 100 children have been conceived after the tissue transfers.

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