The results of a study focusing on samples of immature ovarian and ovum tissue taken from young cancer patients were presented in Helsinki during the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
The youngest patient whose specimens were collected prior to the introduction of chemotherapy (which can cause infertility), was a two year-old girl. Her tissues have been cryopreserved and should enable her to have a child later in life.
The innovation of this technique lies in the collection of immature eggs present in the follicles which are cultivated up to maturation in vitro and then frozen. “This is another advantage,”announced Timothy Child, Oxford University Professor and Director of the Oxford Fertility Institute: “We are freezing mature tissues and eggs”.
To date, approximately 50 children have been born world-wide following the preservation of ovarian tissues collected from adults or older children. Some doubts remain regarding the use of this technique in such a young patient. A 23 year-old woman nevertheless underwent an ovarian tissue transplant this year using tissue that had been collected and frozen when she was 8 years old.
Professor Stuart Lavery, who is not involved in the study, announced in The Telegraph that the idea would be to “put those little pieces of ovary back into the person themselves but the worry has always been could some cancer cells remain?”. With this latest technique scientists “will, in fact, be capable of cultivating and isolating eggs from this tissue”which they would use “without having to transplant the ovaries again”.