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Fertility conference 2001 Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Baby hope for 'infertile' girls
Lab
Technology could help 'infertile' women give birth
Teenage girls with genetic disorder that renders them infertile may be able to have babies in the future, thanks to a discovery by Swedish scientists.

Women are born with all the hundreds of thousands of eggs they need for a lifetime of ovulation, but at first, each of these is in a completely undeveloped state called a "primordial follicle".

Girls born with the genetic disorder Turner's syndrome are born with their primordial follicles in place, but over the course of childhood they rapidly disappear.

By the time a girl with the condition reaches puberty, usually there are not sufficient follicles left to become eggs and allow her to get pregnant.

Only a maximum of one in 20 women with the defect manage to conceive.

However, the Swedish team, from the fertility unit at Huddinge University Hospital, found that some follicles were still present in ovarian tissue taken from five girls with Turner's.

Early freezing

The researchers suggest that, if the syndrome was spotted early in life, ovary tissue could be taken, frozen, and then reimplanted once the woman wanted to have children.

Embryologist Julius Hreinsson told the meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lausanne on Wednesday: "To our knowledge, this is the first time that follicles have been observed in ovarian tissue from patients with Turner's syndrome.

"Our findings give hope for the future infertility treatment of these girls."

Mr Hreinsson used keyhole techniques to take the ovary tissue from six girls aged between 12 and 19.

Although they found follicles in five of the girls, a 17-year-old had no trace of them.

While the relatively small number of patients means that the team is calling for more research, it suggested that taking the ovary tissue should be done between the ages of 12 and 14.

Mr Hreinsson said: "We hope to be able to transplant the cryopreserved tissue for these patients within the next decade."

However, there are still many hurdles to overcome before this can happen - so far, no-one has ever managed to successfully re-implant human ovarian tissue so that a woman could become pregnant.

Turner's syndrome affects one in 3,000 girls, and the defect is caused by a missing chromosome.

See also:

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