Melbourne: In a world first, an infertile Australian woman has conceived after growing new eggs in ovarian tissue transplanted into her abdomen, a breakthrough doctors say has the potential to revolutionise fertility treatment.
The woman, known only by her first name, Vali, is nearly 26 weeks pregnant with twins after previously being rendered infertile by treatment for ovarian cancer.
A team at Melbourne IVF and The Royal Melbourne Hospital managed to help the woman grow egg follicles and produce two healthy eggs after transplanting her own frozen ovarian tissue into her abdomen.
Only one baby has been born before in Australia after ovarian tissue transplant, and fewer than 30 globally, but this is the first time the tissue has been successfully transplanted at an entirely different site in the body to where it was taken from, the report said.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital has collected about 300 samples from women it says could now go on to become pregnant.
Gab Kovacs, the international medical director of Monash IVF, which did the first successful Australian ovarian tissue transplant, said this next breakthrough was very exciting.
"It makes me quite convinced that the optimal way for preserving fertility will be taking ovarian tissue," he said. "If I had a patient who was going to lose their fertility to cancer treatment I would offer it from now on".
Vali`s fertility specialist, Kate Stern, said it had taken years and required almost daily testing and other procedures, to achieve the pregnancy.
Associate Professor Stern said she had worked closely with an oncologist to ensure that Vali`s ovarian tissue did not have cancer cells in it, and the pioneering procedure would now provide hope to other cancer survivors.
The sample of Vali`s ovarian tissue was taken from her cancer-free ovary through keyhole surgery and frozen. Seven years later, the tissue was grafted onto the left and right sides of the front wall of her abdomen.
After a few months the tissue started working, and with a gentle dose of hormone treatment produced follicles and two single eggs. Both were fertilised, implanted, and became viable pregnancies.
More than 1300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia each year, with about 39 per cent diagnosed in woman under 60.