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New technique could save cancer patients' fertility
Date:7/13/2009

so it sheds half of its DNA in order to be fertilized. The ultimate goal is for scientists to be able to freeze the immature follicles, then thaw and mature them in a culture to the point where they are ready to be fertilized.

"This is a very significant achievement because the early stage of the human ovarian follicle is really hard to grow in vitro. They're very fragile and delicate," said Min Xu, a paper coauthor and research assistant professor at the Feinberg School.

As the immature egg grew inside the follicle, it produced hormones just as it would inside a woman's body.

"That's a good sign that these follicles are healthy. The actual egg also is growing to the same size that we would see in an egg that a woman's body has ovulated," said Susan Barrett, a coauthor and post-doctoral fellow at the Feinberg School.

Women currently have few good options to save their ability to reproduce after cancer treatment. Men are able to freeze their sperm for later use before they begin fertility-destroying cancer therapies. The best option to preserve the fertility of a female cancer patient is to collect her eggs, fertilize them with sperm and freeze the resulting embryos. However, this option is often not a practical choice because it can delay cancer treatment, can't be performed on those who have not reached puberty, and requires fertilization -- a problem for those who do not have a male partner or do not wish to use donor sperm.

Other researchers have experimented with freezing entire ovaries or strips of ovarian tissue and implanting them in a woman's body once she is ready to have children. But for cancer patients, it is possible that cancer cells may be present in the ovarian tissue and result in a new cancer after the tissue is implanted. However, if follicles could be removed from the tissue and grown in the laboratory successfully, as this study suggests, then a new fertility preservation technique might become avail
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Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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