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Kids conceived by IVF may be taller than others

Maria Cheng, The Associated Press
LYON, FRANCE – Doctors have removed eggs from young female cancer patients and — for the first time — brought the eggs to maturity before freezing them, giving the girls a better chance to one day have children.

Previously, scientists had thought viable eggs could be obtained only from girls who had undergone puberty.

“We didn’t expect young girls to have eggs that could withstand the process of maturation,” which involves adding hormones, said Dr. Ariel Revel, who led the research at the Hadassah Hospital in Israel.

The research will be presented today at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lyon.

In the study, Revel surgically extracted the eggs and then artificially matured them in a laboratory, with the idea of re-implanting them one day should the patient wish to have children.

To obtain the eggs, Revel and his colleagues performed surgery on 18 patients ages 5 to 20. Of 167 eggs, 41 were successfully matured, including some from prepubescent donors. The eggs were then indistinguishable from those of older women, Revel said.

“Any advance that enables young women to have children one day after having cancer is positive,” said Simon Davies, head of Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity based in Britain. Davies was not linked to the research.

But because the extraction of eggs is an invasive operation, Davies said more information was needed about potential risks to young women fighting cancer. There might also be ethical concerns, as the decision to remove eggs from very young girls would likely be made by the parents, not the patients.

Experts think cancer treatments can affect female fertility. Chemotherapy usually affects all body cells, attacking not only the cancer, but also other areas, including the ovaries.

Unlike men, who produce sperm throughout their lifetime, women have a set number of eggs from their birth, which decreases as they age. Young girls who undergo aggressive chemotherapy treatments often experience a sharp drop in the number of their eggs, and some become completely infertile.
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