A sterile woman is about to give birth to the world’s first baby conceived after a full ovary transplant.
The 38-year-old was rendered infertile when her ovaries failed at the age of 15, causing her to suffer an early menopause. After receiving an ovary transplanted from her twin sister, the woman, who lives in London, is expected to give birth this week.
The pioneering surgery will give hope not only to women who suffer an early menopause, but also to those undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer. They could now freeze an ovary before beginning the treatment.
The success also raises the possibility of women freezing ovarian tissue to postpone motherhood for social reasons, such as delaying marriage or not wishing to interrupt their careers.
Unlike IVF, the conventional infertility treatment, an ovary transplant not only allows a woman to conceive “naturally” but also restores hormone levels in women who have suffered an early menopause. The hormones produced in the ovaries – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone – affect the female body in many ways, including prompting monthly periods and protecting the bones from osteoporosis.
After the ovary transplant, the previously sterile woman had periods for the first time in 22 years. In addition to the joy of becoming pregnant, the osteoporosis she had previously suffered showed signs of improvement as a result of restored hormone levels. The woman’s twin, who already has two children, was prepared to sacrifice one of her ovaries to give her sister the chance of becoming a mother. The baby will, genetically, be the twin sister’s child.
The transplant was carried out in America early last year by Dr. Sherman Silber, the microsurgery pioneer of the Infertility Center of St. Louis in Missouri. He will discuss the pregnancy at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Monday.