How Ovarian Tissue Transplants Could Change Fertility


Photo: Flickr/SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Many young women who have to undergo cancer treatment, which could make them infertile, are opting to preserve their fertility by removing and freezing ovarian tissue.When they are in remission and want to try to have children, doctors can implant the tissue into their abdomen and, theoretically, it will start producing eggs from the immature cells that produce reproductive hormones and turn into eggs.

This procedure has actually been successful with multiple cancer patients, resulting in 22 births so far. It has been so successful in fact, some doctors are suggesting the process could be used on “normal” women — instead of just those who have lost their fertility from cancer treatments.

Researchers suggest that ovary transplants could help extend the fertility of young women, especially those who take time to work on their careers before having children. These workaholic women could put one of their babymakers on ice after a simple removal surgery, and several years or even decades later, they could recreate the fertility of their youth by inserting a couple of strips of the defrosted tissue into their abdomens.

This would also delay menopause, the researchers suggest. Many of the women who have had their ovarian tissue re-implanted after achieving remission have started having regular periods again and, basically, extended their fertile years.

“To cryopreserve the ovary is now something we can do very easily,” Dr. Theresa Woodruff, from Northwestern University, said in a video from “We can remove the ovary under a laproscopic technology that allows the surgery to occur in under 20 minutes and that woman is able to go home in under two hours.”

Many other doctors still warn that the treatment is experimental and fertility is not guaranteed. We also don’t know what effect extending fertility into old age would have on a woman. 

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