A 24-year-old woman has given birth to a baby after her fertility was restored with the ovarian tissue frozen when she was just nine.
This is the first instance of live birth from frozen tissue and a breakthrough for patients who want to undergo IVF after chemotherapy.
Moaza Al Matrooshi, now 24, said the arrival of her baby son was “like a miracle.”
Infertility from cancer treatments
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy are known to leave the patient infertile but after this breakthrough, young cancer survivors should have hope.
Al Matrooshi, from Dubai, was born with beta thalassaemia—a blood disorder that is lethal if left untreated.
She needed chemotherapy before undergoing bone marrow transplant, which was carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
The chemo would have left her ovaries damaged, so before starting treatment she had her right ovary removed and frozen, at an operation in Leeds. She was nine years at the time.
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Specialists were able to preserve the ovary, which remained frozen until last year when it was sent to Denmark, where the transplant took place.
Eggs from the ovary were used to perform IVF and Al Matrooshi, whose son was delivered at the privately-run Portland Hospital in December 2016, said, “It is a perfect feeling.”
“We’ve been waiting so long for this result – a healthy baby,” she said. “I always believed that I would be a mum and that I would have a baby. I didn’t stop hoping and now I have this baby.”
Preservation of fertility
When she was a young child, the fertility preservation procedure was carried out by Professor Helen Picton, Head of the Division of Reproduction and Early Development at the University of Leeds.
Professor Picton said, “It is the first time that the success of the procedure has been shown in a pre-pubertal girl, and I’m delighted that this young woman has had her baby.”
The other ovary was left in her body but the harm caused by chemotherapy drugs rendered it useless and Al Matrooshi started undergoing menopause in her early twenties.
After being married, in 2015 she worked with her gynaecologist to start transplantation of some of her stored ovarian tissue.
Following the transplant her eggs started maturing, her hormone levels began returning to normal, she began ovulating, and her fertility was restored.
Fertility restoration in women & men
Professor Picton told the BBC that Moaza was “one of the first patients we helped back in 2001, before any baby had been born from ovary tissue preservation.”
“Worldwide more than 60 babies have been born from women who had their fertility restored, but Moaza is the first case from pre-pubertal freezing and the first from a patient who had treatment for beta thalassaemia,” he said.
Professor Picton is now carrying out further research to see if immature eggs can be fertilized in the lab and used for IVF, in case transplantation of ovarian tissue is not an option.
“These are young cancer patients, for example, who might be at high risk of reintroducing cancer cells to the body through the transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue,” he said.
“We’ll also be using the technologies for the in vitro growth and culture of ovarian tissue as a means of testing the ovarian toxicity of contemporary cancer drugs, so that will help us predict the likely risk to young patients of losing their fertility in the future.”
Recently, in a separate study, scientists at the University of Texas found that a drug could be used to restore spermatogenesis in men who have become infertile due to cancer treatments.