A potentially “phenomenal” scientific breakthrough has offered fresh hope to cancer patients rendered infertile by chemotherapy.
For the first time, researchers managed to restore ovaries in mice affected by chemotherapy so that they were able to have offspring, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The scientists now plan to begin clinical trials to see if the technique, which involves the use of stem cells, will also work in humans by using umbilical cord material and possibly stem cells taken from human embyros, if regulators agree.
Lead researcher Dr Sara Mohamed, of Mansoura Medical School in Egypt, said she had decided to try the technique after meeting a 22-year-old cancer patient.
“It was very emotional for me so I decided to pursue it and work on it,” she said.
“We injected stem cells in the ovaries of mice which had chemotherapy and were damaged and we got very good ovarian function restoration.
“We are now working on translating that into clinical trials [for humans].”
Stem cells are cells that can turn into any cell in an animal’s body.
Chemotherapy kills eggs and damages ovarian tissue and can lead women to go through the menopause earlier than normal.
More than 20,000 women of child-bearing age get cancer every year.
Consultant gynaecologist Dr Stuart Lavery, of Imperial College London, told the Telegraph: “This is a very exciting piece of research that adds to our understanding of how cells differentiate to become egg stem cells.
“There remains an enormous amount of work to see if these results would be transferable into humans, but it does provide realistic hope that post-chemotherapy patients could restore ovarian function and possibly fertility.”
Dr Edgar Mocanu, of Rotunda Hospital in Dublin and the International Federation of Fertility Societies, said: “This could open phenomenal opportunities.”
The study was revealed at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting in Baltimore.
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