A 27-year old woman from Belgium was recently the first in the world to bear a child using transplanted frozen ovarian tissue from her childhood.
The transplanted ovarian tissue was frozen when the subject was still a child had because she had to have an ovary removed when she was 13-years old. The ovary was originally removed so she could begin treatment for sickle cell anemia that was invasive. Following the treatment the other ovary failed, which meant that she would be unlikely to conceive without the transplant. Experts are hoping that the success of this procedure can hopefully pave the road to help other young patients. The woman had given birth to a child that was healthy in November of last year. The details of the case were published recently in the science journal, Human Production.
Delving into the past, the woman who didn't want her identity to be revealed, was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when she was 5 years old. She moved from the Republic of Congo to Belgium where everyone came to the conclusion that the disease's condition was so severe, she had no choice but to get a bone marrow transplant. Before the bone marrow transplant, she had to undergo chemotherapy in an effort to disable her immune system and prevent it from rejecting the foreign tissue that it would be subjected to during the transplant. As you may already know, chemotherapy has a possibility of destroying the ovarian function, as a result doctors had to remove her right ovary, at which point they decided to freeze tissue fragments.
At the time all of this occurred, the subject was beginning to show signs of puberty but had not started her periods. The other ovary that remained had failed when she was 15 years old. Fast forward ten years later, she decided that she wanted to start a family and have a baby, at which point she approached the doctors about this. The doctors ended up grafting four of her thawed ovarian fragments onto her remaining ovary and another 11 fragments onto other sites in her body. The result? The subject started to menstruate sporadically after five months and when she was 27, she became pregnant, a process which occured naturally.
Dr. Isabelle Demeestere, the gynecologist that spearheaded the treatment, spoke to BBC about the situation and mentioned that the patient was very stressed at the time of the procedure as it was really her only option when it came to having a child. With the happy ending and everything having gone right, she is obviously relieved and thankful for everything. Dr. Demeestere continued by stating that she now hopes the procedure could potentially help others in similar situations, especially given the increasing number of long-term survivors among hematological diseases diagnosed in their childhood. In particular, she said the procedure was suitable for those who were at high risk of ovarian failure such as survivors of treatment for leukemia, lymphoma and sarcoma. According to Dr. Demeestere, thousands of people went through the procedure to freeze tissue in her clinic where 20% of them were children. She explained the following regarding the matter:
"However, the success of this procedure requires further investigation in very young pre-pubertal girls, as our patient had already started puberty even though she had not started menstruating."
One of the things she did warn about was that the whole proces was only be suitable for patients at high risk of ovarian failure. This was because the procedure carries risks such as damaging the remaining health ovary or even possibly reintroducing malignant cells during the transplant process.
As of right now, approximately 40 babies have already been born across the world through the use of frozen ovarian tissue taken from older women. The recently unveiled news shines the light on the first baby born from an ovary frozen in a woman's childhood.