If researchers were able to successfully construct an artificial ovary that could allow cancer patients to preserve their fertility, they would open up a door of possibilities when it comes to fertility preservation.
Researchers from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, report today that they have for the first time isolated and grown human follicles to a point of "biofunctionality" on a bioengineered ovarian scaffold made of "decellularised" ovarian tissue. When they're cancer-free, the tissue will be put right back on, the women can go through the normal process of pregnancy, then birth - they will be able to deliver naturally.
The team discovered that a laboratory-made ovary can keep eggs of humans alive for several weeks.
Women who face a cancer diagnosis can already have ovarian tissue removed and frozen before they have fertility-harming treatments.More news: Motor tariffs could lead to £230bn retaliation — European Union warns Trump
Researchers are also searching for some new ways to create artificial ovaries, which potentially could help sometime those women who are no more infertile after going through cancer treatment. Unlike ovarian tissues, follicles do not contain cancer cells.
Currently, women will have their eggs frozen before chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which can destroy viability of the cells. This second method is seldom used because of the fear that the removed ovarian tissues might contain cancer cells which may be reintroduced into the patient's body when the tissues are reimplanted. This scaffold was then seeded with early-stage follicles.
But they said it might have advantages over other fertility treatments.
The approach has been garnering praise from the scientific community, but more research is needed.More news: Patriot Prayer marches through downtown Portland, police declare march a riot
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.
For young female cancer patients wanting to preserve their fertility, ovarian tissue transfer that can restore menstrual cycles and allow the woman to get pregnant "the old-fashioned way" - since hundreds of eggs remain intact within the follicles - would be a huge advantage over freezing a few eggs.
But, as even the study's lead scientist, Dr. Susanne Pors, states, this amounts to a "proof of concept", if an "exciting" one. Per the Guardian, scientists have created an artificial ovary out of human tissue and eggs, and that ovary's performance on tests is encouraging.
Experts expect the treatment to be offered to women within three years.More news: White House investigating 'Stuttering John' prank call that reached Trump