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Breakthroughs in reproductive medicine – Fighting the biological clock

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Scientists Mitinori Saitou and his colleagues at Kyoto University Japan, report they have created eggs from embryonic cells and induced pluripotent stem cells in a mammal for the first time. The researchers went on to breed healthy offspring from the eggs they created. The induced pluripotent stem cells are cells that look essentially identical to embryonic stem cells, but instead of coming from embryos, they can be made from adult cells such as skin or blood cells. This would help avoid the ethical issues that are associated with embryonic cells. This research also brings hope to women with premature ovarian failure (POF) and to older women with poor ovarian response (POR) who, in the near future, can hope to have a child which is genetically their own. Interestingly, the same team had previously developed sperm from stem cells.

Ovarian tissue freezing and transplant
Dr. Sherman Silber offers women a procedure that he claims will basically put their biological clocks on ice. The technique Dr. Silber proposes is a surgical procedure that removes part or all of an ovary, so that it can be frozen and then transplanted back when the woman is ready to have children. “We can take the ovary out of a young woman or part of an ovary … and we can freeze it,” Dr. Silber says. “And when she’s 51-years-old, we can transplant that tissue that’s been frozen for the last 20 or 25 years, and lo-and-behold, she’s got a 20-year-old ovary, and it will last for another 50 years”.

Other ivf infertility treatment specialists advise caution, suggesting that the procedure should be reserved for women who are at imminent risk of losing their fertility, and should not be used electively as a method to delay fertility.

However, once the technology is available, it is almost impossible to restrict its use and the future may see more and more women delaying childbirth till they have achieved their professional goals. And obstetricians will increasingly have to deal with obstetric complications related to the elderly primigravida.

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