New ovarian transplant technique offers hope to infertile

June 30th, 2009 - 3:26 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 30 (ANI): French doctors have unveiled a new technique for transplanting the ovaries of women who have lost their fertility as a result of cancer treatment.

The technique, described by Pascal Piver of the Limoges University Hospital in central-western France, has helped a young woman who had been menopausal for two years to give birth to a healthy baby girl.

Using a two-step process, they restored fertility to the woman after she had undergone chemotherapy treatment for sickle-cell anaemia, a disease in which red blood cells become dangerously misshaped.

Ovarian transplants, pioneered in 2004, entail removing an ovary from a woman before she undergoes cancer therapy. The organ is frozen and then thawed and returned to the patient after her treatment.

But one of the biggest challenges in this surgery is encouraging the transplanted tissue to grow blood vessels.

If the blood supply is insufficient, the ovary does not respond to hormonal cues that prompt it to ovulate.

The new technique entails a two-phase procedure in which tiny pieces of the stored tissue are stitched in place three days before the real transplant.

“The first graft encourages the growth of blood vessels and paves the way for the ovary to become fully functioning in a shorter time scale,” the researchers said.

After the transplant, the patient started ovulating in four months and became pregnant after another two months, without the need for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Piver said the technique had also been used on a second patient whose ovary had been in storage for 10 years. She is now pregnant after IVF.

“We believe that it represents a considerable advance on the methods of ovarian transplantation used until now,” Piver said.

“We hope that it will enable more young patients who have been cured of cancer to regain their reproductive health and become pregnant with their own children,” Piver added.

The new technique has been described at the 25th annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. (ANI)

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