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Health

Doctors hail incredible new development that could help female cancer survivors have children

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An 'artifical ovary' may offer new hope for women who have gone through fertility-destroying cancer therapies

Anna Freeman

02 Julio 2018 12:07

A team of Danish doctors have created an ‘artificial ovary’ from human tissue and eggs, in the hope that it will help women have children after cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and other therapies that can reduce female fertility, The Guardian reported.

The team in Copenhagen produced a lab-made ovary that could keep human eggs alive for weeks, thus raising prospects that the approach could allow women to have families in the future who have gone through radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The artificial ovaries might also help women with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and blood disorder beta thalassaemia, which can call for aggressive fertility-harming therapies, as well as with patients who go through an early menopause.

While the new treatment could prove vital for women, those who face a cancer diagnosis can already have ovarian tissue removed and frozen before they go through treatment. This means that if they are given the all-clear, the tissue is put back and the women can go on to have babies naturally.

However, certain cancers, such as ovarian or leukemia, can invade the ovarian tissue itself, which creates a higher risk that the disease could return if the ovarian is frozen and thawed.

Susanne Pors, and her colleagues at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, think that artificial ovaries could be a safer option for the future, particularly in high risk patients.

The team used chemicals to strip donated ovarian tissue of all of its cells, leaving a bare tissue ‘scaffold’ made largely of collagen. The doctors then inserted this scaffold with hundreds of human follicles, the tiny sacs that hold early-stage eggs.

Today, Pors will tell the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona how the team implanted an artificial ovary holding 20 human follicles into a mouse and found that a quarter of them survived for at least three weeks.

‘This is the first proof that we can actually support these egg cells. It’s an important step along the road,’ Pors told The Guardian. ‘But it will be many years before we can put this into a woman.’

It could be over 10 years before such a treatment like this becomes medically approved - if it does at all - but it does offer hope to women struggling with the traumatic side effects of cancer treatment.

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