Future Solutions For Ovarian Failure?

Two current research projects give hope to women who have ovarian problems or suffer from early menopause.

Artificial Ovary

Scientists at Brown University have managed to create an artificial ovary says a research article just published in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. Professor Sandra Carson, the senior author of the research at Brown, says that the team has not only created an artificial ovary but has been able to mature human eggs in it. Of course this is just the first stage of the research but offers hope for the future for women who suffer ovarian failure. It will be especially beneficial for women who have had cancer treatment and lost their fertility as a result.

With this artificial ovary the team will be able to examine how a normal healthy ovary actually works. They will then be able to study what type of things disrupt the maturation process of the egg, for example toxins and chemicals. Being able to study how the egg matures in an ovary, albeit an artificial one, will give researchers a much better understanding of the whole egg maturation process.
The artificial ovary also offers future cancer patients the possibility of having their immature eggs removed and frozen before having radiation and chemotherapy. After the therapy the women will be able to have their eggs matured in the artificial ovary, before being fertilized after which the embryo would be transferred to the womb.

The scientists are unwilling to speculate what the research project could discover or develop in the future. “This is really very, very new,” said Professor Carson.

Stem Cell Research

Another research team has just presented some preliminary findings of an equally useful piece of research, to the World Congress of Fertility and Sterility, held in Munich in September 2010. Professor Osama Azmy and his team from the National Research Center in Cairo, Egypt have managed to restore ovarian function in test animals. Using a certain type of stem cells called Mesenchymal Stem Cells, the scientists treated rats with induced ovarian failure and were able to get their ovaries to function again.

Although treating infertile rats and infertile women isn’t exactly the same thing, the principle is the same. The next step is to see how easy it is for the rats to get pregnant and have babies. The researchers don’t even know at the moment if the babies will be genetically related to the mother or to the stem cell donor. Once these trials have been done the scientists will be able to consider how to apply this to women suffering from premature ovarian failure. When explaining the research, the professor said “there is still a long way to go before we can apply this to women, nevertheless this work holds out the possibility that women with premature ovarian failure might be able to bear a baby of their own”.

Watch This Space

Although both of these research projects are not yet at a stage where they can apply their knowledge to women suffering from a premature menopause, the future looks very promising. The more scientists and researchers learn about the ovary, egg maturation and how stem cells may help to rejuvenate the ovary the more they will be able to find a practical application for human beings.

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