Woman Gives Birth After Ovarian Transplant
Identical Twin Sister Donated Tissue; Baby Girl Was Conceived Naturally
June 7, 2005 -- A 24-year-old woman has given birth months after receiving
an ovarian transplant from her identical twin sister.
The baby was conceived naturally, without help from techniques such as in
vitro fertilization (IVF), says the report in The New England Journal of
Medicine's online edition.
The women's circumstances were very rare. However, the outcome could have
"broader implications for preserving fertility in young women, such as
those who require potentially sterilizing treatment for cancer," write the
twin's health care team. The team included Sherman Silber, MD, of St. Luke's
Hospital in St. Louis.
New Mom Had Been Infertile for 10 Years
The identical twins were 24 years old. One twin had had three children; her
sister had premature ovarian failure and had been infertile for a decade. The
infertile twin had only had three years of "scanty" menstrual periods,
which ended when she was just 14 years old, says the report.
Wanting children, the woman first tried egg donation and IVF at another
clinic. The eggs were donated by her twin sister, but the attempts failed.
Then, the women decided to take another approach. The infertile woman said
she didn't want to try IVF again. Instead, she received a graft of ovarian
tissue from her identical twin sister.
The graft went in the same area where the ovaries are. Because the tissue
used for the ovarian transplant came from her identical twin, the woman's body
accepted the donation without needing drugs to suppress the immune system.
Bouncing Baby Girl
Within three months of the procedure, the woman's menstrual cycles resumed
and her hormone levels were back on track. She conceived naturally during her
second cycle, and the "uneventful" pregnancy resulted in an apparently
healthy baby girl, say Silber and colleagues.
Trying to Preserve or Revive Fertility
"The possibility of ovarian transplantation in humans is receiving
increased attention," say the researchers. "Some centers offer to bank
ovarian tissue of young patients with cancer, with the aim of restoring
fertility by transplanting thawed ovarian tissue after they are cured or in
"If ovarian transplantation is proven to be safe and effective in
humans, fertility preservation might become readily available for young women
who need to delay childbearing for medical or social reasons," says the
Recent Reports of Success
Last November, Dutch researchers reported that they had
The ovary, removed before cancer treatment, produced
hormones normally in the woman's arm.
The arm was chosen for convenience. If the woman wanted to get pregnant, she
would need reproductive technology, and it would be relatively easy to harvest
her eggs from her arm, Dutch researchers told WebMD last fall. That woman had
not tried to conceive due to her cancer's return, doctors reported last
Another woman who was thought to be sterile after treatment for Hodgkin's
disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, reportedly got pregnant after an ovarian
graft, say Silber and colleagues. The woman had banked her own tissue, but
there are questions about whether her pregnancy was due to the graft or to
tissue near the graft, says Silber's report.
That's not an issue in the twins, says Silber. He calls their case a
compelling demonstration that ovarian grafts can restore fertility.
The report will also appear in the journal's July 7 print edition.