New Fertility Treatment Could Smash the Biological Clock

Jessica Ferri

A new fertility treatment may give women the ability to conceive later in life, restarting ovulation, even after chemotherapy.

The treatment, developed in Israel, involves freezing ovarian tissue from women whose ovary function is impaired due to age or cancer treatments and later implanting the frozen tissue back into the patient to restart ovulation. Last week in Melbourne, Australia, it resulted in its first successful pregnancy.

Dr. Gab Kovacs removed a portion of a patient's ovarian tissue and froze it before she had breast cancer in 2005. The frozen tissue was implanted into the patient, now 43. She was able to conceive and is now six weeks pregnant, Western Australia Today reported.

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The treatment, which is less expensive than in-vitro fertilization and possibly safer than hormone therapy, could become the go-to option for women who have become infertile due to chemotherapy. But could it also work for women struggling with infertility not related to cancer?

"The whole concept of using it for social reasons doesn't sit comfortably with me, so I'm not advocating for that, but it might have a place in preventing diseases that come with menopause such as osteoporosis," Dr. Kovacs said in an interview with Western Australia Today. Dr. Kovacs did not respond to Yahoo! Shine requests for comment.

The patient in Melbourne is the 20th woman to receive the ovarian tissue implant, and the first woman in Australia to become pregnant through the treatment, which was developed in Israel.

The tissue is removed through key-hole surgery through the belly-button and treated with an anti-freeze component. When implanted back in the patient after cancer treatment has been completed. If the tissue takes, ovulation can restart. Some methods remove the entire ovary, but in that case, the chance of the patient conceiving on her own is not possible.

Another physician in Melbourne, Dr. Lyndon Hale, has performed the treatment in several patients, but only one became pregnant and subsequently miscarried.

Though patients and doctors all over the world are eager to see if the implant method could be considered an option for all types of fertility problems, researchers point out that problems multiply as older women start having children. Dr. Hale told Western Australia Today: "There is a natural time to have babies and as you get older you get other medical conditions. It becomes an unsafe thing to do."