Ovary Transplant

Ovary transplants could be the future of infertility treatment for women. Some doctors are optimistic enough to believe that the surgery could be as common as kidney transplants. The Daily Mail in the UK reported in 2008 that the procedure could allow women to put off having children until well into their 40s or even later. Dr. Sherman Silber, the physician responsible for a successful 2007 ovary transplant from one 38-year-old identical twin to another, said in the article that ovary transplants could eventually allow women to freeze their ovaries in their 20s when their eggs are young and healthy if they wish to delay having children until their later years.

The German-born woman Dr. Silber operated had been infertile since she was 15 when her ovaries failed. After the surgery the woman conceived and gave birth to a healthy child. It was the doctor's first successful whole ovary transplant.

The First Successful Whole Ovary Transplant

Dr. Silber's whole ovary transplant is the first successful surgery of this type widely reported and published in medical literature. It may, however, not be the first time this type of surgery was successfully performed. Surgeons at China's Zhejiang Medical Science University reported a successful whole ovary transplant in the early 2000s. This surgery was also done between sisters because the similarity in blood and bone marrow makes it less likely for the body to reject the new organ. The ovary transplant at China's Zhejiang Medical Science University was not published in medical literature or peer reviews.

Ovary Tissue Transplants

In 2004 Dr. Silber was involved in the world's first successful ovary tissue transplant. The surgery was done between identical twins. He placed strips of ovarian tissue from the fertile twin into the infertile twin. This allowed the infertile twins ovary to start functioning enough for her to conceive and give birth to two healthy children. With ovary tissue transplants, the organ will only function so long because it doesn't have its own blood supply. Usually after a few years the organ dies off. With an entire ovary transplant, the organ has its own blood supply and it's thought that the ovary will last for decades because of this.

Critics say that the woman, who became infertile because of cancer treatment for advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma, may not have gotten pregnant from the transferred tissue. They say it's possible that her own ovary may have begun to work again independently allowing her to get pregnant.

The Future

To date the only ovary transplants that have been done are between sisters with very close blood matches. If ovary transplants were to be done with donor ovaries, the recipient would need to take drugs for the rest of her life so her body doesn't reject the new ovary. Doctors are unsure how these types of drugs would impact an unborn child.