A young woman has become the first in the world to give birth to a healthy child after a team in Brussels restored her fertility by transplanting ovarian tissue that had been removed and frozen while she was a child.
This is a very important first report of a healthy baby being born as a result of the re-implantation of ovarian tissue that was removed from a 13 year old girl and frozen for ten years or so, until she became an adult and wanted to start a family.
The ovarian tissue was removed before she had started having her periods and so before she had started ovulating naturally. She required chemotherapy prior to having a “bone marrow transplant” (known as haemopietic stem cell transplant), which was needed to cure her from sickle cell anaemia, a very debilitating condition.
Chemotherapy can affect the ovaries and lead to an early menopause, which was the case here. Chemotherapy is also used to treat certain cancers and so the option of freezing ovarian tissue gives the opportunity to preserve fertility for later. This procedure has been carried out many times now in adults and several pregnancies have been reported worldwide. There had previously been uncertainty as to whether ovarian tissue taken from young girls would later on be competent to produce mature, fertile eggs, so today’s case is both reassuring and exciting.
We have to remember that many children who require chemotherapy are very ill and the surgery to remove ovarian tissue is no small undertaking. Furthermore, there are only a few centres in the world where this technology and treatment is both available and achievable.
I would like to congratulate the team in Brussels. I fully anticipate this procedure will become more widely available, including in the UK, within the next five years.
 Live birth after autograph of ovarian tissue cryopreserved during childhood by Isabelle Demeestere et al. Human Reproduction journal.