Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Opening New Fields of Medical Intervention

"We were astonished when we saw what had happened to the tissue. It looked like pre-pubescent tissue with a high density of follicles and clustering that you don't normally see in an adult."
"We knew that ABVD [chemotherapy drug combination] does not have a sterilizing effect like some cancer drugs can, but to find new eggs being made, in such huge numbers -- that was very surprising to see."
"[The study outcome may become] significant and far-reaching. It is is significant that the same effect was seen in all of the women on ABVD."
Evelyn Telfer, researcher, University of Edinburgh

"This is a very small but extremely interesting study."
"It's very early days but may give an insight as to how the ovary can make new eggs, which previously we thought was impossible."
Charles Kingsland, fertility expert, Liverpool Women's Hospital
female reproductive system
If confirmed in further studies, the new findings challenge the accepted view that a woman is born with a fixed number of eggs and cannot grow more in her lifetime.

The study these two medical experts are speaking of was published in the journal Human Reproduction. It introduces the very real possibility that a common cancer drug is capable of setting off a  hormonal response that produces new eggs in a woman's ovaries and this may provide a real ray of hope to infertile women. Dr. Telfer of the school of biological sciences at University of Edinburgh along with her colleagues conducted their study after noticing something peculiar.

Women undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin Lymphoma where the drug combination ABVD was used, were shown to have up to ten times the eggs that a healthy woman would have. Instead of damaging future opportunities of becoming a mother, these drugs used in cancer treatment appeared, unbelievably, to have improved these women's fertility.

Scientists had analyzed samples of ovarian tissue that had been donated by fourteen women who had undergone chemotherapy, and placed those samples alongside tissue from a dozen healthy women for comparison purposes. They discovered the issue from eight cancer patients treated with ABVD had four to ten times more eggs than the women who had been treated with a different chemotherapy, and even healthy women, of a similar age group.

The chemotherapy-exposed tissue was found to be in such excellent condition it could be mistaken for tissue taken from young women's ovaries. Now, the puzzle for these scientists is to figure out the mechanism that would explain how these eggs were created and that done, learn how to bring them to maturity since there was uncertainty whether the eggs as they immediately presented would turn out to be fully functional.

Women who had undergone chemotherapy with ­ABVD had up to 10 times the number of eggs as healthy women.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images   Women who had undergone chemotherapy with ¬≠ABVD had up to 10 times the number of eggs as healthy women.

But now, another one of nature's mysteries appears on the cusp of revelation and through timely intervention it appears that it is within the realm of possibility to prime ovaries back toward a pre-pubescent state when new eggs are produced. Female possess all their eggs as part of their biological equipment, at birth. As women mature the eggs begin to age, and as they age, damage can set in, making it ever more difficult to conceive.

The researchers have been led to speculate that chemotherapy may shock stem cells in the ovaries into production of new follicles -- which are hairlike structures -- each producing a single egg. Bioscience is never a closed book, and in this instance, close observation has led to a discovery that opens up new opportunities where aging ovaries can be stimulated by a drug, to serve the purpose of new egg production, promising the advent of new lives.


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