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

05 July, 2018, 03:34 | Author: Lillian Steele
  • It is hoped an engineered structure could be re-implanted into women and restore fertility after they have completed chemotherapy or radiotherapy

The ovarian tissue of cancer patients could consist of cancerous cells. That's for a number of reasons (including the obvious reality that mice are very different mammals with different biologies from human beings); for instance, mice used as test subjects may all come from the same gene pool, potentially skewing results.

Scientists from the Danish National hospital has created "artificial ovaries" that will help women who have become infertile after chemotherapy, to become pregnant. This left a bare tissue "scaffold" made largely of collagen, the protein that gives skin its strength.

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. Such treatments increase the risk of infertility as they can stop the ovaries from working properly.

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. "There have been certain cancers where we can't use this procedure because of this concern", he said. As hoped, the material permitted communication between the cells and allowed them to develop.

"This is the first time that isolated human follicles have survived in a decellularized human scaffold and, as a proof-of-concept, it could offer a new strategy in fertility preservation without risk of malignant cell re-occurrence", said Dr. Susanne Pors, who led the Rigshospitalet team.

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He added that the new technique transplants only the eggs and surrounding cells of the follicle (seeded into a matrix) back into the uterus. At the time, the ovarian cells grew around the artificial ovary and the mice survived.

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

But still, the experts say that the experiment is in its initial development stage and human testing will have to be carried out.

The new method removes this risk and could also work for girls, because they are born with a life supply of immature eggs. Which were collected from cancer patients.

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