The New England Journal of Medicinerecently reported the first birth of a baby conceived naturally by a woman who had the first known successful ovary transplant in the United States. The birth of a baby without help from techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) to an infertile woman has sparked a growing interest in ovarian transplants making the procedure appear as common as a kidney transplant. Some of the risks associated with the procedure have left several experts questioning whether couples should rule out other fertility restoration options in favor of ovarian transplants.
According to Dr. Frederick Licciardi, a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist and Associate Director of Reproductive Endocrinology at the NYU School of Medicine "Some patients are under the impression that an ovarian transplant will give them the opportunity to conceive with their own eggs, but they do not fully realize that the eggs created as a result of an ovarian transplant are those of the ovarian donor." During the surgery, the patient receives a graft of ovarian tissue from the donor that is transplanted to the same area where the ovaries are. This new option may sound like the answer to many infertile couples' prayers, but certain experts are casting a critical eye.
Although he is not advocating for an immediate rejection of this latest reproductive technology, Dr. Licciardi does believe that much more needs to be known about the procedure itself. The two women in the most recent case reported by The New England Journal of Medicine were identical twins that had identical genetic material, thus there was no need for anti-rejection drugs that can cause significant side effects in some women. "In women who receive the tissue from someone other than an identical twin, the ovarian tissue will be rejected and the procedure will be a failure," explains Dr. Licciardi.
Dr. Licciardi advises patients to investigate all of their options before ruling out traditional fertility methods. He is hopeful that this technology may be helpful to those women with cancer who need to store their own tissue prior to sterilizing chemotherapy. However, this recent case involved using fresh tissue, while cancer patients will need to freeze their ovarian tissue for future use. The functioning of frozen/thawed ovarian tissue has not been as promising.