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New treatment for infertile women delivers

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Aaron Hsueh of Stanford University, who developed the technique.— Photo: AFP
Aaron Hsueh of Stanford University, who developed the technique.— Photo: AFP

A new technique that coaxes an infertile woman’s ovaries into producing eggs again has resulted in the birth of a baby in Japan, scientists said on Monday.

A second woman has also become pregnant using the same method, according to the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , a peer-reviewed U.S. journal.

Researchers caution that the technique is still in its early stages, but could offer hope for young women whose ovaries are no longer producing eggs.

This condition, known as primary ovarian insufficiency, affects about one per cent of women and causes the ovaries to stop working before age 40.

The research took place in Japan and involved 27 women with primary ovarian insufficiency. Their average age was 37. All had stopped menstruating nearly seven years earlier on average, and all agreed to have both ovaries removed as part of the experiment.

Of this group, 13 women were found to still have residual follicles, which typically contain one immature egg.

“Our treatment was able to awaken some of the remaining primordial follicles and cause them to release eggs,” said senior author Aaron Hsueh, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Stanford University.

The ovaries were dissected and treated with stimulant drugs to block a certain growth pathway, called PTEN, that causes the follicles to stay dormant. Small pieces of the ovaries were then transplanted back into the women, near their fallopian tubes.

Five developed mature eggs, which the researchers harvested for in vitro fertilization using the sperm of the women’s partners. One woman received two embryos and carried a single pregnancy to term.

Lead author Kazuhiro Kawamura, associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Japan, did the C-section. Of the other four women, one is pregnant, two are preparing for embryo transfer or are undergoing additional egg collection, and one woman was implanted with an embryo but failed to become pregnant, the researchers said. — AFP


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