Animal research by Dr. Roger Gosden and colleagues demonstrated successful ovarian tissue freezing by showing that ovarian tissue could be removed from sheep, frozen in strips and transplanted into the animals with restoration of function and fertility. Since then, several studies have also demonstrated great success in humans.
Poma Fertility’s Dr. Michael Opsahl initiated what likely was the first research institutional review board approved protocol for human ovarian tissue cryopreservation (freezing) in 1995. In this study, doctors were able to freeze the tissue on about 20 subjects out of the more than 2500 women who inquired about the procedure. The patients were almost all cancer patients. Opsahl transplanted tissue on two subjects. One had early tissue function while the other did not.
Worldwide, a number of patients have now had ovarian tissue freezing and later transplantation leading to a number of pregnancies. The efficiency seems to be low probably because the thawed tissue must be transplanted surgically and then the body must grow blood vessels into the tissue to maintain its viability.
- Surgery, usually laparoscopy (an outpatient surgery)
- Removal of part or all of an ovary (which also means removal of some significant percentage of the total egg supply)
- Tissue processing and freezing
- At time of transplantation, thaw tissue and surgically transplant it
- Location of transplant varies from intra-abdominal near the tube to the external abdominal wall or in the forearm
- Wait several months for vascularization and hormone production
- Intra-abdominal location near fallopian tubes: wait for natural conception. May augment with controlled ovarian hyperstimulation and IUI
- External abdominal wall and forearm: stimulate for IVF and retrieve eggs from follicles in the arm or abdomen