Scientists have recently come up with a new method for creating an artificial ovary, providing hope for women who are unable to have children without the use of a surrogate. This innovative technology is currently in the developmental phase, but researchers are hopeful that the technique will be particularly beneficial for women and girls facing chemotherapy.
A big problem facing female cancer survivors is the inability to bear children following intensive treatment. Chemotherapy, a common and effective cancer treatment method, can often destroy a woman’s ovaries, leading to infertility. For young girls who have yet to go through puberty, chemotherapy can leave them sterile before their ovaries are even able to produce eggs.
Until now, the solution has been to freeze ovarian tissue prior to chemotherapy and replace it later. This method is problematic, however, because reintroducing the ovarian tissue bears the risk of exposing the patient to potentially cancerous cells suppressed within the ovarian tissue.
Now, researches are working on a groundbreaking technique that uses the woman’s own tissue to create a synthetic organ, allowing her to produce eggs naturally. This technique acts to first get rid of all of the patients’ cancerous cells, leaving behind a simple ‘scaffold,’ or protein framework which holds zero cells.
This ‘scaffold’ allows for the ovarian follicles, which will produce eggs, to grow. Once eggs are produced, the synthetic organ can be grafted into the patient’s body, allowing her to naturally produce her own eggs each month.
Dr. Susanne Pors, a researcher at Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet Laboratory of Reproductive Biology, recently shared the advancements at Barcelona’s European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology conference.
Dr. Pors stated that the artificial ovary procedure supported the development of human eggs “in a tissue bed which is free of malignancies.” She also explained that “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.”