Background: Young female adult and adolescent cancer patients facing life-preserving but fertility-threatening chemo- or radiation-therapy are increasingly seeking options to protect their reproductive potential. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation with transplantation is a promising technique to safeguard fertility in cancer patients. However, this method may risk re-introduction of the original cancer to the survivor of the disease. Thus, developing a method for in vitro growth of immature follicles may provide a method for fertility restoration in the future.
Methods: Human secondary follicles were isolated from ovarian tissues obtained from cancer patients and grown in vitro within a bio-engineered culture system for 30 days.
Results: Human ovarian follicles became steroidogenically active, and developed from the early secondary to antral stage in vitro. The follicles contained healthy, growing oocytes that were connected by transzonal projections between the somatic cells and oocyte.
Conclusions: Our data support the notion that human follicle development can be achieved in vitro in a bio-engineered culture system. More studies are required to investigate whether the fully sized oocytes obtained from in vitro grown follicle are competent to resume meiosis and be fertilized.