"With some of the most successful but aggressive cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, up to 90 percent of women prematurely lose the ability to have children," said David Lee, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, reproductive endocrinology and infertility in the OHSU School of Medicine. Lee is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the school and first author of the Nature paper. "We believe this breakthrough may be a major step in preserving fertility for young cancer survivors. In the future this procedure could allow a significant number of these cancer survivors to conceive and have healthy children."
Lee collaborated on this research with Don Wolf, Ph.D., a scientist at the ONPRC. Wolf also is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and physiology/pharmacology in the OHSU School of Medicine.
To simulate the loss of fertility and the hormone production changes in women battling cancer, the scientists laparoscopically removed the ovaries of seven anesthetized female monkeys. Researchers then transplanted some of each monkeys' own ovarian tissue back into the now infertile animals. The tissue was implanted in the arm, abdomen or kidney. Four monkeys had transplants to both the arm and abdomen, two to the kidney and abdomen, and one to the arm only. The research team then monitored hormone production in the animals and the development of follicles, cavities in the ovarian tissue where eggs (ova) develop.