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Houston Fertility Center

Is Ovarian Transplant For Real?

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on March 01, 2010

The journal Human Reproduction reported last week on a Danish woman who has now become pregnant and given birth twice as a result of one ovarian tissue transplant procedure.

Ovarian tissue transplant is one of the most experimental methods for rescuing a woman's fertility prior to her undergoing sterility-causing treatment for cancer. The more usual ways to "set aside" a woman's fertility for later use are to freeze either embryos or egg cells.

Dr. Stinne Holm Bergholdt, 32, had cortical tissue from her one ovary removed and cryopreserved before going through chemotherapy for bone cancer. She survived cancer and used the frozen tissue, after transplanting it on to her existing ovary, to successfully conceive first one child (in 2007) and then another in 2009.

There have been only a few successful pregnancies resulting from ovarian transplant, and most of those have been among women who were twins. Being twins removes much of the tissue rejection risk inherent in the transplantation of any organ. Anti-rejection medications are required for tissue transplant procedures, though patients should be informed that they don't provide guarantees of success and aren't covered by insurance.

The thing that makes Dr. Berholdt's case newsworthy is that she's the first to have a second pregnancy with the same tissue, and spontaneously (that is, without medical assistance.)

Without much larger numbers of ovarian transplant patients to observe, it's nearly impossible to derive much from Dr. Bergholdt's story that would be of value to most infertility patients. There are so many variables of fertility for each individual person, it's simply impossible to gauge why this one was so successful.

The plausability of using transplanted ovarian tissue for most women is still an unanswered question.

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