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Coming to a Clinic Near You? Ovarian Transplants
While experimental fertility treatments like cryopreservation (the freezing and storing of eggs and embryos), harvesting immature eggs then maturing them in-vitro, and transplantation of ovarian tissue or entire intact ovaries, have gained ground over the past five years, IVF is still a time-consuming and expensive process — and one that holds no guarantees.
This week's TIME Magazine chronicles the efforts of Dr. Sherman Silber, a specialist at Infertility Center of St. Louis in Missouri, and his quest to make whole ovary transplanting an available option for women.
In 2007, Silber sucessfully performed the surgery on identical twin sisters and the sister who received the ovary transplant gave birth to a baby girl last Fall. He tried the transplant again on non-twins, but the transplant failed as the sister's body ultimately rejected the ovary as it would an organ. Yet with the use of immunosuppressant drugs, Silber says, the technique could work between sisters or even strangers.
Silber says he "would help all women who wish to preserve their fertility" with ovary transplants "as long as patients were fully aware of the potential risks of ovary removal, which include early menopause." He is currently awaiting Institutional Review Board approval to perform ovary tissue transplants for seven non-identical twin pairs who have asked for it.
"I know there will be people who have big ethical debates about it," he says, but in many ways this seems like a logical progression of science. "Women are able to put off child-bearing because of these enhanced opportunities in society, and often don't seriously think about having kids until they're 35 or 40. By then there's a 50% chance that they're infertile," he says. "Normally we worry that science is getting way ahead of society," Silber adds. "This is exactly the opposite of that."
You can read more about Silber's efforts and the pros, cons and controversies involved in ovary transplants in this article: