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"In The News"

This section of Fertility Today Magazine takes a look at the latest fertility news appearing in the media. We will bring clarity to scientific truths and identify allegations that are not medically sound or proven. We hope to refute false perceptions or mythical beliefs. We will use this section to enlighten our readers about news items and will bring editorial comments that are consistent with current standards of care.

We will also discuss the merits of the issues as to their validity, accuracy and confirm if the information is consistent with evidence-based medicine or practice, in the world of fertility medicine.

Ovarian Tissue Freezing

Recent work at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, Cornell University and others have demonstrated that it is possible to successfully freeze and thaw ovarian tissue. When a woman must have cancer chemotherapy or radiation, the ovaries are often damaged or destroyed.

The ability to freeze and thaw ovarian tissue means the the ovaries could be removed prior to chemotherapy and replaced after cancer treatment. The ovaries would not be exposed to toxins and would theoretically resume normal functioning.

Egg Freezing

When a woman undergoes an in vitro fertilization cycle she often has excess embryos that can be frozen. An embryo is formed after the egg is fertilized by a sperm.

Fertility specialists are seeking ways to successfully freeze and thaw eggs. After a stimulation cycle (FSH is given) there are usually numerous eggs, some of which could be frozen for future cycles. The major advantage is that expensive ovulation inducing agents would not be necessary for the cycles where frozen eggs are used. Younger women could also freeze their eggs for use later in life.

The major challenge to the process is that the membrane "skeleton" of the egg cell is very delicate. As with all biologic material, an egg is primarily composed of water, which expands when frozen. This expansion, and the formation of ice crystals inside the egg, can lead to egg damage.

Some companies are beginning to market egg freezing as a means to insure fertility later in life. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine made the following observations at this years annual meeting.

"The report concludes that these techniques are rapidly evolving and thus far, the technique also appears to be safe for the patient and offspring. However, at present both egg and ovarian tissue cryopreservation remain investigation procedures that should only be performed with the formal approval and oversight of an Institutional Review Board.

The Committee concludes, however, that at present neither oocyte nor ovarian tissue preservation should be offered or marketed as a means to defer reproductive aging."

Research is ongoing and hopefully one day these treatments will become commonplace.

 


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