Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Ovarian Tissue Transplant

Belgian doctors report the first ever pregnancy in a 25-year-old woman who underwent autologous (her own) ovarian tissue transplant:

Professor Jacques Donnez and his team "have managed to achieve what no other team in the world has yet been able to do - given a young woman, who underwent cryopreservation of ovarian tissue prior to treatment, the gift of pregnancy," the university hospital said in a statement.

The ovarian tissue was removed and cryopreserved (frozen) before she had chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Then the tissue was transplanted back into her body and, after four months, it was fully functional (maturing and releasing eggs). The child was conceived naturally and the woman is now 25 weeks pregnant. (The usual transplant location is under the skin of the abdomen.)

This is not the first time embryos have been produced from transplanted ovarian tissue:

In March this year, Dr. Otkay [a fertility expert at Cornell University] reported the production of an embryo from an autologous heterotopic ovarian tissue transplant. In that case the woman failed to become pregnant.

Very good news, indeed, for reproductive age women who have to undergo cancer treatment. Also good news on the horizon for women who experience other types of reproductive problems: in mice, the ovary appears to produce eggs throughout the female's life; on-going efforts aim to perfect the techniques used for the first human uterine transplant; and postmenopausal women can carry a pregnancy to term (the oldest woman to give birth is a 63-year-old Californian).

At the same time, from an illuminating interview at, we find out that Alexander Sanger, Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council doubts the safety of the combined oral contraceptive pill. It's not a good day when even the FDA (lately, not the most scientifically-driven body when it comes to women's reproductive health) contradicts such a prominent figure as Mr. Sanger. According to the FDA:

In fact, over the years, more studies have been done on the pill to look for serious side effects than have been done on any other medicine in history [.]

One of these days I will get around to telling you the saga of the IUD (the intrauterine device or, as I like to call it, the Cinderella of American birth control). And while we're on the subject, allow me to be the first to nominate the IUD as the "poster-child/method" of what happens when women can't make beneficial health decisions because of lack of information and massive amounts of misinformation.

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