Can we turn back our fertility clocks?

Edinburgh-based World Authority sees benefits but limitations to Ovarian Tissue Freezing 


There has been some noise in the media recently, including this news piece on ABC, about the possibility of freezing ovarian tissue as a means of preserving fertility.

It has been suggested in some reports that cryopreservation could be a more successful method than egg freezing, for older couples to conceive using their own genetic material.

Cryopreservation is a freezing process where tissue that is susceptible to damage caused by time (or chemical effects such as in chemotherapy) is preserved. The aim is to reach low temperatures without causing damage through the formation of ice.

I asked Professor Richard Anderson, Professor of Clinical Reproductive Science (University of Edinburgh), a world’ expert in ovarian tissue cryopreservation, to comment on these recent developments and claims. He says:

Ovarian tissue cryopreservation has been offered to women with cancer for a number of years now and about 30 babies have been born following replacement of the tissue.  Ovarian tissue is taken at a surgical procedure before treatment starts, frozen, and can be replaced later when treatment has been completed.

This is encouraging as it demonstrates that process can be successful, but the success rate is unknown as we do not know how many women have had tissue replaced overall.  While it has largely been offered to women with cancer, women with other serious diseases (such as some autoimmune conditions) requiring treatments that will damage the ovary have also undergone this. 
We don’t know how long replaced ovarian grafts will last, but it is clear that the majority of eggs within the follicles in the transplanted tissue don’t survive.  Current data suggests that perhaps two-thirds of eggs are lost while the tissue is in the process of regaining a blood supply after being replaced in the woman.  Therefore, if the ovarian tissue stored contains relatively few follicles, only very few will survive which may not be sufficient for any real prospect of function and restoration of fertility.  
Because of this, most groups offering ovarian tissue cryopreservation have concentrated particularly on younger women (generally under 35 years old) facing treatment that is known to have a seriously adverse effect on their ovaries, rather than as a way of beating the age related decrease in follicle numbers.

He goes on to say:

It would currently appear that storing eggs may well be a better option.  The prospects for preserving fertility for women already in their late thirties using ovarian tissue cryopreservation would appear limited at present due to the poor survival within the tissue, but it may be in the future that this will be improved.

In-fertility is an area of medicine where there are still huge leaps forward in understanding, knowledge and treatment but, so far, there are limitations on turning back time.  Keeping in the best possible health by nourishing your body through sensible exercise, eating & drinking as well as trying to get to the root of unexplained infertility and tackling underlying issues such as PCOS, endometriosis or sperm deficiencies, still forms the basis of the best fertile health.