Early research by Danish scientists suggests artificial ovaries might one day be available to young cancer patients unable to naturally conceive.
A paper presented Monday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology shows how scientists are creating the framework for artificial ovaries.
“We have now done the first important steps towards constructing a cancer-free ovary,” said Susanne Pors, an author of the research and a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen Rigshospitalet. “We have many more studies to do, but this is a proof-of-concept showing that human eggs can survive on a newly constructed scaffold.”
The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and has not been tested inside humans.
The patients who might benefit from an artificial ovary, if one is created, are select women who have a type of cancer that causes malignant cells in their ovarian tissue, such as ovarian cancer and some blood-born cancers including leukemia. These women often cannot save their ovarian tissue for fertility, because of fear of remaining cancer cells. If the “scaffold” artificial ovary option works, it could restore a woman’s fertility using their eggs and possibly donor tissue.
“This work could eventually develop into an artificial ovary in five or 10 years, but I don’t know if there are many women who could make use of this,” said Daniel Brison, scientific director of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Manchester. Brison is not affiliated with the paper.
Brison did say the work could contribute to a larger body of research on how eggs develop and generally, how the ovary works.
More: Are you experiencing infertility? What should you do next?
More: These lab-grown human eggs could combat infertility in the future
More: Myths about IVF, surrogacy and adoption
Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets