In Brief
  • Doctors have restored a woman's fertility using her own cryopreserved ovary, which was removed pre-puberty so she could treat a potentially fatal blood condition.
  • This is the first time the procedure was successful using tissue removed prior to puberty, meaning patients diagnosed very early could still have children later in life.

A Special Birth

A 24-year old woman has given birth after doctors managed to restore her fertility using her own cryopreserved ovarian tissue, taken pre-puberty.

Moaza Al Matrooshi was only five years old when she was diagnosed with beta thalassaemia. The blood condition, which required chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, can be fatal if left untreated. Knowing that chemotherapy can damage ovaries, Matrooshi had surgery to have her right ovary removed and preserved when she was just eight years old.

Post-treatment for her beta thalassaemia, she was left with one barely functioning ovary that eventually led her to experience early menopause. To restore Matrooshi’s fertility, doctors from the Fertility Clinic and Research Laboratory on Human Reproduction at Erasme Hospital in Belgium grafted several fragments of her preserved ovary tissue onto her remaining ovary and uterus when she was 21 years old.

The transplanted tissue responded to her hormones, and five months after the procedure, Matrooshi began regular menstrual cycles. She conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) two years later, and now, Matrooshi has given birth to a healthy baby boy.

Image Credit: Fergus Walsh/BBC

New Hope for Young Patients

Ovarian transplants of tissues taken from adult women have been successful before, but the team behind this procedure claims it is the first proof that ovarian tissue taken from a pre-pubescent child can be transplanted back into the patient to restore fertility as an adult.

In 2015, a team from the same hospital performed the procedure successfully using ovary tissue taken from a 13 year old. Dr. Isabelle Demeestere, the doctor leading that team, noted in a press release that “when [patients] are diagnosed with diseases that require treatment that can destroy ovarian function, freezing ovarian tissue is the only available option for preserving their fertility.”

The success of this new case with a patient even younger is a major step forward in the field of fertility preservation. “This…has the potential to help many young people who face cancer treatment preserve their fertility chances in the future,” Adam Balen of the British Fertility Society, which represents reproductive medicine specialists, told New Scientist. Now, even diagnoses that happen very early in a patient’s life don’t mean they can’t live one that includes children later on.