Can “Artificial Ovaries” help women conceive after chemotherapy?
The team in Copenhagen showed that a lab-made ovary could keep human eggs alive for weeks at a time, raising hopes that the approach could one day help women have families after harsh treatments such as chemo- and radiotherapy.
Implanted artificial ovaries might also help women with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and the blood disorder beta thalassaemia, which can require aggressive fertility-harming therapies, along with patients who go through an early menopause.
Susanne Pors and others at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen believe artificial ovaries could be a safer option. To make one, they used chemicals to strip donated ovarian tissue of all of its cells, including any lurking cancer cells. This left a bare tissue “scaffold” made largely of collagen, the protein that gives skin its strength. The doctors then seeded this scaffold with hundreds of human follicles, the tiny sacs that hold early-stage eggs.
Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, added: “It’ll be very reassuring, if this work reaches fruition, that patients can have the transplantation knowing there is no risk of transplanting the cancer back into them. The beauty of this is that many of the women who have ovarian grafts go and get pregnant naturally, they don’t have to go through IVF.”
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