A recent media report of ovarian transplantation with subsequent infertile women conceiving has raised great interest at a conference in Istanbul. (“Ovary transplant breakthrough lets women gives birth in older age – SMH – 5 July 2012”). 28 babies were born to infertile women who had ovarian tissue transplanted. I have heard the lead surgeon, Dr Schuman Silber, from the United States talk before and the story certainly sounds very impressive and promising. The transplants appear to last reasonably long periods of time offering great hope for women who may have delayed conception or have potential problems with premature ovarian failure, treatment for cancer and other issues involving ovarian reserve such as endometriosis. Whilst technically the harvesting of ovarian tissue and freezing is a reasonable routine matter that can be performed nowadays via a simple laparoscopy it is worth reflecting that at this point only small numbers have been successful and there are likely to be problems which have not been fully elucidated yet.
Whilst this technique offers great hope, at this stage I would not delay attempting to conceive in the hope that this technique will be readily available.
In a similar vein I have read that that a group in the UK is working to raise funds for a research project looking at the feasability of uterine transplantation. This is a little discussed topic but there are a number of unfortunate individuals who have plenty of eggs but the uterus is a major issue (fibroids, congenital anomalies, hysterectomy at caesarian section, cancer etc). The research project is welcomed.
It is timely also that a new Iphone app (Wonder clock) has been released to assist people with the timing when their biological clock may expire. The app’s developer, Myra Kaddoura, insists that the information empowers women and helps them face their fears about fertility. The difficulty of course is that this clock only measures one aspect of fertility and there are clearly multiple others including problems with tubes, sperm, endometriosis and the like. Despite this for some it may be a useful piece of information although the results should be interpreted with great care. “time women clocked on to fertility myths before it gets too late – SMH – 6 July 2012”