A 31-year-old woman has become the first person in Britain to give birth to a healthy baby after scientists froze part of her ovaries before reimplanting it.
The scientific breakthrough, which could offer hope to thousands of cancer patients, was achieved by a team at the University of Edinburgh after the woman had some of her tissue removed following a rare kidney cancer diagnosis more than 10 years ago.
Scientists only reimplanted the tissue after the woman, who has not been named, underwent chemotherapy. She has now given birth to a boy and is recovering well, the Daily Mail reported.
Around 30 people from around the world have previously given birth following similar procedures. Last year, a 27-year-old woman from Belgium gave birth to a boy following years of chemotherapy, which started when she was aged just 13.
Professor Allan Pacey, former chairman of the British Fertility Society, said he hoped the news would encourage more women to consider the option. “It should give them hope that the proof is there that it will work,” he told the paper.
At a glance | Wilms’ tumour
Around 70 children in the UK develop a Wilms’ tumour each year.
It is thought to come from a specialised cell in the embryo called metanephric blastema, which is involved in the development of kidney while babies are in the womb.
The disease often affects those under five. Treatment includes radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery, with most children cured.
Professor Evelyn Telfer, who was part of the team, said she saw the successful procedure as a sign of “insurance” for others suffering from “devastating” illness.
“The whole process of associated reproductive technology is to improve the ability of people that are infertile to have children,” she said.
“I see this as a kind of insurance, which is very positive for people undergoing treatment.”
Researchers are believed to have removed a section of tissue a couple of millimetres in size from one of the woman’s ovaries. They did this before she underwent chemotherapy for Wilms’ tumour, as the treatment can render some women infertile and trigger an early menopause.
The tissue, which contained eggs that were healthy but immature, was then frozen for 10 years using liquid nitrogen at around -170C.
It was finally replanted last year and the woman managed to conceive naturally, unlike others who have had the same procedure.