Monkey birth provides cancer hope

A monkey has given birth to a healthy baby using an egg taken from transplanted ovarian tissue, in a breakthrough scientists say could lead to new fertility treatment for women cancer survivors.

    Cancer treatments can damage or destroy fertility

    The baby, named Brenda, is the first primate born using an

    egg taken not from a working ovary but from parts of the ovary

    implanted elsewhere in the mother's body.

    This tissue contains

    cells that can develop into eggs, without needing a full ovary.

    The egg was then removed, fertilised and the embryo was

    transplanted into a surrogate mother.

    "This breakthrough may be a major step in preserving

    fertility for young cancer survivors," said David Lee, a

    fertility expert at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in

    Portland, who worked on the primate project.

    "In the future this procedure could allow a significant

    number of these cancer survivors to conceive and have healthy

    children," he added.

    Surrogate mother

    Although cancer treatments such as chemotherapy,

    radiotherapy and radical surgery save the lives of patients,

    they can damage or destroy their fertility.

    The scientists restored fertility in seven monkeys whose

    ovaries had earlier been removed, by implanting fresh tissue

    from their ovaries under the skin of their arm, abdomen or

    kidney or in a combination of areas to determine the best site.

    "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


    David Lee,
    Oregon Health & Science University

    Six to 12 months later the scientists retrieved eggs from

    the monkeys, fertilised them with sperm and implanted a dozen

    embyros into surrogate monkey mothers, according to the research

    published in the science journal Nature.

    One pregnancy was established and five months later, the

    normal gestation period for monkeys, Brenda was born from the

    womb of the surrogate mother.

    Earlier this week a separate research team said it had made

    a human embryo in a similar process, using frozen ovarian tissue

    taken from a cancer patient six years earlier and planted under

    her skin. But that experiment did not lead to a live birth.

    Until now only live sheep and rodents had been born through

    such egg transplants.

    Frozen tissue

    The knowledge gleaned from the primate

    research brings scientists a step closer to producing the same

    results in humans.

    "If it works in rhesus monkeys and we know that we can

    recover and fertilise eggs from patients, it is reasonable to

    believe that eventually we will be able to establish pregnancies

    in patients as well," Dr Don Wolf, of Oregon National

    Primate Research Center, said


    He said the next step was try to get the same success using

    frozen ovarian tissue from monkeys, rather than fresh tissue as

    this time.

    Human fertility treatments for cancer patients would

    depend on making the technology work with frozen tissue.

    "This provides cancer patients with some hope for the

    future," said Wolf. "This technology is developing at a

    significant and measurable rate and there is promise that at the

    end it technology will work."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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