Stem cell therapies are frequently used to treat blood disorders, though this often leads to problems with ovarian function in women who receive the treatment. A potential way to combat this reduced fertility is the preservation of ovarian tissue before the treatment occurs, for transplantation back into the patient at a later date, though this has only been demonstrated successfully in adult patients. However a case study published in the journal Human Reproduction has reported the successful use of this procedure in a girl of nearly 14 years old.
Prof. Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society and Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine, said:
“This is a very important first report of a healthy baby being born as a result of the re-implantation of ovarian tissue that was removed from a girl aged 13 years and 11 months, and frozen for ten years or so until she became an adult and wanted to start a family.
“The ovarian tissue was removed before she had started having her periods and so before she had started ovulating naturally. She required chemotherapy prior to having a “bone marrow transplant” (known as haemopietic stem cell transplant) which was needed to cure her from sickle cell anaemia, which is a very debilitating condition.
“Chemotherapy can affect the ovaries and lead to an early menopause, which was the case here. Chemotherapy is also used to treat certain cancers and so the option of freezing ovarian tissue gives the opportunity to preserve fertility for later. This procedure has been carried out many times now in adults and several pregnancies have been reported worldwide. There had previously been uncertainty as to whether ovarian tissue taken from young girls would later on be competent to produce mature, fertile eggs, so today’s case is both reassuring and exciting.
“We have to remember that many children who require chemotherapy are very ill and the surgery to remove ovarian tissue is no small undertaking. Furthermore there are only a few centres where the technology is available and this sort of treatment achievable. In years to come it will no doubt become more routine.”
“I would like to congratulate the team in Brussels.”
Prof. Simon Fishel, Professor of Human Reproduction and President of the CARE Fertility Group, said:
“This case is important and highlights a future direction of human reproductive technologies. It is not the first success using cryopreserved ovarian tissue, but it is the first of its kind in relation to the case history. It further supports the need for the acceptance and wider development of ovarian tissue frozen storage and potential use in the future – either for fertility preservation or, indeed, a potential replacement of medication used postmenopausally.”
‘Live birth after autograft of ovarian tissue cryopreserved during childhood’ by Isabelle Demeestere et al. published in Human Reproduction on Wednesday 10 June 2015.