Chemotherapy can destroy fertility. Recently, however, Danish scientists have developed a method to reintroduce ovarian tissue without reintroducing cancer cells.
The method includes stripping out ovarian tissue DNA but leaving the follicles, or immature ovum, intact. When these artificial ovaries are reintroduced in mice, the ovum survive and grow.
Options for Maintaining Fertility After Chemotherapy
For young women who hope to have children but are facing the rigors of chemotherapy, particularly if they suffer a cancer related to ovarian tissue, options are extremely limited. Cryogenic options and in vitro fertilization have been met with success, but there are risks of egg viability.
Alternatively, women can undergo an ovarian tissue transfer that can lead to egg production. However, this runs the risk of reintroducing cancerous cells back into the patient post-cancer treatment.
How Does It Work?
Danish scientists have created a method of leaving the follicles, or immature ovum sacs, intact while stripping the ovarian tissue of its DNA structure. Without a DNA structure, the ovarian tissue can’t grow on a cellular level, so any faulty or cancer-causing DNA can’t expand by division over time.
Long-Term Benefits of Using Artificial Ovaries
The loss of ovarian tissue due to cancer treatment can have a serious impact on the health of young women. In addition to the loss of their fertility and any child-bearing hopes, the removal or destruction of the ovarian tissue forces the body into immediate menopause. This radical hormonal shift can be physically, emotionally and mentally destructive.
In addition, rapid and early menopause can lead to bone density loss, cognitive issues and cardiac concerns. The creation of an artificial ovarian structure that can be safely reintroduced to the body can help a woman who’s battled cancer plan for a longer and healthier life.
Ovarian Cancer Growth
It’s important to note that ovarian cancer can occur elsewhere in the body as well. While it starts in ovarian tissue, this form of cancer can be of three different types:
- epithelial cell, from the outer covering of the ovary
- germ cell, from the cells that create eggs
- stromal cell, or hormone-producing cells
Depending on the source of the ovarian cancer, it can spread elsewhere in the body and still be an ovarian cancer. The ability to remove all DNA from the ovarian tissue structure and add it back into the body so the patient maintains some ovarian function offers great hope to anyone with a personal or family history of ovarian cancer.
The ovaries are a critical part of the human female endocrine system. Loss of the function of this tissue over time is natural and normal, but for women who suffer from a cancerous ovarian tissue DNA pattern, maintaining their ovarian tissue isn’t safe. By creating an “artificial ovary” structure, or a functionally empty cell that can still maintain egg follicles, scientists can give women back both their fertility and some ovarian function.