Chemotherapy treatment in premenopausal women is associated with an increased risk of premature ovarian failure (POF) but the exact mechanism through which this occurs is uncertain.
The new technique offers millions of infertile cancer patients hope that they could one day start a family. It might also be able to restore fertility to women hit by early menopause.
The inventors of the new procedure used stem cells from bone marrow to rejuvenate the damaged ovaries of six mice which had undergone chemotherapy. The scientists reprogrammed the cells to repair the follicles in the ovaries. Within two weeks, the treated mice had increased their number of follicles, started ovulating again, and later went on to have healthy babies.
Experts said the treatment had ‘phenomenal’ potential – and that if it could be made available to patients it would be a huge step forward. It would be an option to the current practice of freezing eggs or starting IVF, before having chemotherapy which some women don't get a chance to do, because of how much the cancer has progressed.
The researchers also noted that semen is affected age- the older a man gets, the more marked the reduction in sperm quality. So young men are better off freezing their sperm if they want to become fathers later in life.
A significant drop in sperm count and speed can make it harder to conceive, while lower semen quality can also raise the risk of having a child with learning disabilities.
The research results were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual conference in Baltimore.