The best option currently for a female cancer patient to preserve fertility is to collect eggs, fertilize them with sperm, and freeze the resulting embryos. But that technique may not be acceptable to all female cancer patients.
Researchers have already identified experimental methods to freeze entire ovaries or strips of ovarian tissue and implant them in a woman's body when she is ready to have children. This is a good option for some patients, but it is possible that some cancer cells may hitch hike on the ovarian tissue and result in a new cancer after treatment is completed.
Developed by Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. and Lonnie D. Shea, Ph.D., of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and their colleagues, the new technique would avoid both concerns.
The findings were published online in Human Reproduction.
The new findings build on earlier efforts by the research team, who grew mouse follicles in culture, induced the eggs they contained to mature, fertilized them with mouse sperm, and implanted them into female mice to establish pregnancy. The earlier research is described in an article that appeared in The NIH Record, at http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2006/09_08_2006/story02.htm.
The researchers made the new advance by suspending the human follicle in a three-dimensional matrix of a gel-like material. They then flushed the follicle with the same hormones and growth factors that the follicle would be exposed to inside a woman's body.
In previous attempts to grow follicles, researchers had set the follicles on a flat surface, which the study authors now believe does not mimic closely enough conditions inside the body. These earlier attempts failed to develop good quality eggs that were healthy enough for fertilization.
For the current study, th
|Contact: Robert Bock|
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development