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Scientists: "Artificial ovaries" will help to get pregnant after chemotherapy

04 July 2018

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.

Hence, to combat such a risk completely, the researchers from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen chose to develop artificial ovaries for patients who were due to undergo cancer treatment.

The artificial ovary will be frozen until time for replacement in the woman's body (after recovery from cancer is complete.) The theory is that the eggs will then mature and release from the follicles naturally, prompted by the woman's normal hormonal cycle. Such treatments increase the risk of infertility as they can stop the ovaries from working properly.

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The decellularised scaffold was made up of a mix of the proteins and collagens left behind.

But they said it might have advantages over other fertility treatments. One option is to remove and freeze some of her eggs so that after her cancer has been treated and she's ready for a child, she can attempt in-vitro fertilization.

Scientists in Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, are now developing artificial ovaries which will give women, who have become infertile after receiving chemotherapy to treat cancer for extensive periods of time, a chance to conceive naturally.

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Follicles, unlike ovarian tissue cells, do not contain cancer, Pors said. She presented the results at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual conference in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday. Next, early stage follicles are thawed and reintroduced into the scaffold in the lab. It can even work for women who go through menopause early. Brison, who was not involved in the study, noted that the use of decellularized scaffolds is common in regenerative medicine, where tissues derived from stem cells are transplanted back into patients. One of the options of preserving fertility is freezing the eggs after their removal prior to cancer therapy.

Extensive human testing will be required to prove the bio-engineered ovaries' viability in non-mice.

Such a risk is "very low" because the ovarian transplant procedure is rarely or not offered at all to women who suffer with certain types of high risk cancers like leukaemia and ovarian. This scaffold she explained originates from the woman's own tissues or from donated tissues. 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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Successful trials in humans are expected to be carried out within five years.