Baby born to Scots cancer patient using frozen ovary tissue

A cancer patient from Edinburgh has become the first UK woman to give birth following a transplant of her ovary tissue that had been frozen for ten years, according to reports.

Critics have urged women not to use the process simply to put motherhood on ice. Picture: EmiliaU
Critics have urged women not to use the process simply to put motherhood on ice. Picture: EmiliaU

The new mother gave birth to a healthy baby boy two weeks ago after the remarkable breakthrough which has been in the pipeline for more than 20 years.

Edinburgh University scientists will unveil the findings on Thursday, which could have major implications for cancer patients across the world.

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The woman, who has not been named, was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer when she was 21, prompting her to undergo a lengthy chemotherapy programme to combat the disease. Chemotherapy can render women infertile temporarily or even permanently by damaging the eggs in their ovaries.

The Edinburgh patient chose to have a portion of her ovary tissue frozen before she began chemotherapy, the tissue being stored in a laboratory for the past decade.

Scientists then implanted this frozen tissue into her damaged ovary and she was able to conceive naturally.

Professor Evelyn Telfer, a reproductive biologist at Edinburgh University, who was part of the team, said the breakthrough was “a fantastic achievement”.

She said: “The whole process of associated reproductive technology is to improve the ability of people that are infertile to have children.

“Particularly when they have had a devastating illness which they have come through, it is particualarly rewarding for those involved in it. I see this as a kind of insurance, which is very positive for people undergoing treatment.”

Belgian mother Ouarda Touirat, 32, became the first women in the world to give birth to a baby girl using an ovarian tissue transplant in 2004.

Ovarian tissue transplants for cancer patients were deemed safe by a landmark study in Human Reproduction journal last year. However campaign groups have warned that the technique should only be used for medical reasons, not as a way to put motherhood “on ice”.

Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “It is a great step forward within the parameters of this case, but should not become another insurance policy where people think, ‘I will put my ovarian tissue in the freezer, come back when I am much older and have a child’.”