New Artificial Ovary Puts Us One Step Closer To Restoring Fertility After Cancer

The new approach uses cell-free ovarian tissue harvested from the patient herself, or a donor, to support the maturation of follicles. Shidlovski/Shutterstock

Aliyah Kovner 03 Jul 2018, 00:01

In their as-of-yet unpublished study, the team demonstrated that follicles removed from cancer patient women integrated well into the artificial ovaries in vitro; showing signs of maturation and cell signaling. Furthermore, when the artificial ovaries were transplanted into mice, one-quarter of the follicles within survived for at least three weeks.

“This is the first time that isolated human follicles have survived in a decellularised human scaffold,” said Dr Pors. She emphasized that the "artificial ovary" poses no risk to the host because cancer cells cannot enter the protective membrane around follicles.

Of course, this proof-of-concept investigation could not answer whether or not the engineered ovaries can thrive after re-implantation in a human woman’s body, and even if it does, the team has no idea how the tissue and follicles will interact with the complex cascade of circulating hormones that guide development of a mature ovum each menstrual cycle.

Daniel Brison, scientific director of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Manchester, told CNN that although the group’s work appears promising, there is a significant chance that the approach will fail to reestablish fertility because it removes the other types of cells present in an ovary – cells that are likely there for a reason.    

However, he concludes 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."

[H/T: New Scientist & CNN]

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