A woman, whose ovarian tissue was removed when she was 13 years old, gave birth to a baby boy late last year. The doctors in Belgium restored fertility to the woman by transplanting an ovary. The ovary transplant operation’s results were published in the journal Human Reproduction on Tuesday.
According to the Washington Post, the woman, whose identity has not been revealed, had a severe case of sickle-cell anemia when she was just a child. To treat her ailment, she underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, which effectively left her unable to conceive children. At 13, the doctors decided to remove her right ovary and ovarian tissue. Eventually, her left ovary failed, leaving her reliant on hormone therapy in order to menstruate.
Ten years later, the woman decided to have a child, so doctors stopped her hormone therapy treatment, thawed some of her frozen ovarian tissue and grafted fragments of it onto her failed ovary and in other places within her body. In five months, the tissue had grown follicles with maturing eggs and she began to naturally experience regularly occurring periods. Two years later, at the age of 27, she conceived.
The authors of the findings published in the journal Human Reproduction wrote:
After more than two years post-transplantation, the patient had a spontaneous pregnancy with a new partner and spontaneously delivered a healthy boy in November 2014.
The woman’s ovaries are still functional and doctors have indicated that she could attempt to have another baby. The doctors also indicated that she “has the possibility of undergoing a second transplantation” utilizing the remaining frozen tissue, as not all of it was used during the first transplant.
She also has the possibility of undergoing a second transplantation with the remaining frozen tissue if the graft stops working, as we didn’t transplant all the ovarian tissue the first time.
Isabelle Demeestere, a gynecologist and research associate at Erasmus Hospital in Brussels, said that the successful ovary transplant marks “an important breakthrough in the field because children are the patients who are most likely to benefit from the procedure in the future,” Philly reported.
This is an important breakthrough in the field because children are the patients who are most likely to benefit from the procedure in the future (…) When they are diagnosed with diseases that require treatment that can destroy ovarian function, freezing ovarian tissue is the only available option for preserving their fertility.
Whilst the success of one woman might present hope for girls facing the same procedures, Demeestere cautions that further research will be necessary in order to assess all of the variables and cover all of the potential concerns. One of the main concerns is whether fertility can be restored using ovarian tissue removed from prepubescent girls. In the case of the woman from Belgium, some signs of puberty has begun to manifest.
The lead doctor behind the procedure pointed out the procedure is highly invasive and is not appropriate as a method to start menstruation, in neither girls nor women. Instead, patients are encouraged to take advantage of hormone replacement therapy. The lead doctor’s remarks came in light of a shared belief “that cryopreserved ovarian tissue should be used only for fertility restoration in patients at high risk of ovarian failure.”
We think, at present, that cryopreserved ovarian tissue should be used only for fertility restoration in patients at high risk of ovarian failure.