In Kenya, an international team of doctors  has successfully performed an ovarian tissue transplant on baboons without using immunosuppressants. They describe their experiment as a world first in the Journal of Assisted Reproductive Genetics.
Until now, attempts at ovarian tissue transplants have been characterised by a “high” number of rejections, culminating in the long-term use of “highly toxic” immunosuppressants. These medicinal products have “serious side effects“, which can lead to “ diabetes, hypertension, cancer and kidney problems “. To replace this “potentially fatal” treatment, the team used a compound called Pre-implantation Factor (PIF), which is naturally secreted by the human embryo to protect itself from being rejected by the body of the pregnant woman.
The study focused on two female baboons. Once the ovaries were harvested, they were transplanted with ovarian tissue, one millimetre thick, and treated with synthetic PIF before and after the transplant to prevent tissue rejection. After a nine-month observation period, no graft rejection was observed and ovarian activity and a normal menstrual cycle resumed in both baboons. Doctor Nyachieo from the Institute of Primate Research (IPR) and principal study investigator explained as follows: “We succeeded in proving that PIF can protect the ovarian transplant against rejection without using toxic medicinal products” – hopefully, this indicates the “safe and effective restoration of fertility”.
The next step will be clinical trials in women, but Doctor Nyachieo is already “certain that this will work” given the “similarity” of the baboons “and the human anatomy”, with a “menstrual cycle of 33 days“.
According to Doctor Nyachieo, this technology “is particularly important for young women who survive cancer but who lose their ovarian function due to cancer treatment which is toxic for the body“. At the present time, “one percent of women experience premature ovarian insufficiency or loss of normal ovarian function before the age of 40“.
Ndlr: Transplantation of ovarian tissue, when it is not autologous, assumes that donor eggs are available. Women who undergo transplant surgery will give birth to children produced from donor gametes. These transplants raise two ethical questions: harvesting of living donor tissue with a view to performing transplantation which is not vital for the recipient and availability of genetic heritage.
 Vienna School of Medicine (Austria), Gothenburg University (Sweden) and the University of Kansas (United States).
 The IPR is a biomedical research branch of the National Museums of Kenya and a WHO collaborating centre.
 Université de médecine de Vienne (Autriche), Université de Göteborg (Suède) et Université du Kansas (Etats-Unis).
 L’IPR est une branche de recherche biomédicale des Musées nationaux du Kenya et un centre collaborateur de l’Organisation Mondiale de la Santé.
Standard Media, Gatonye Gathura (18/11/2017)