A 30-year-old Japanese woman who had been told she was infertile gave birth last December to a healthy baby boy after undergoing a highly experimental surgical procedure in which her ovaries were removed, and tissues were re-implanted in her body after being treated in a lab. The case was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, detailing how the procedure could help women who have poorly functioning ovaries due either to age or premature menopause. More from MSNBC.com:
The new mother gave birth to a son in Tokyo last December, and she and the child continue to be healthy, said Dr. Kazuhiro Kawamura of the St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kawasaki, Japan. He and others describe the technique in a report published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The mother, who was not identified, had been diagnosed with primary ovarian insufficiency, an uncommon form of infertility sometimes called premature menopause. It appears in about 1 percent of women of childbearing age. The cause of most cases is unknown, but the outcome is that the ovary has trouble producing eggs.
That leaves women with only a 5 percent to 10 percent chance of having a baby unless they get treated. The standard treatment is using donor eggs.
After the experimental procedure, Kawamura and colleagues were able to recover eggs from five of their 27 patients. One woman went on to have a miscarriage, one did not get pregnant, and two more have not yet attempted pregnancy, Kawamura said in an email.
The approach differs from what has been done to preserve fertility in some cancer patients, who had normal ovarian tissue removed and stored while they underwent cancer treatments, and then put back. The new work involved ovaries that were failing to function normally.
In the ovary, eggs mature in structures called follicles. For women with the condition the new study targeted, the follicles are either missing or failing to produce eggs. The experimental treatment was designed to stimulate dormant follicles.
Image: Pregnant woman's belly, via Shutterstock