Patient Resources

Modern Maternity: Newsweek

Ovarian tissue transplants can provide hope of having children someday

Sienna Dauer is a 3-year-old little girl who doesn’t yet understand how much of a miracle she really is. She is only the second child in the world to be born by a woman who had an ovary removed and implanted back in months later. Annie Dauer, Sienna’s mother, had her ovary removed so it could be frozen while she went through chemotherapy for cancer. Although the procedure is still experimental, it worked in Sienna’s case. This procedure is now being used to preserve ovarian tissue for women facing medical treatments that could risk their ability to reproduce.

“It’s just a leap of faith you’re taking, just like every day in life people take leaps of faith,” said Annie Dauer, who is now pregnant with her second child since having her ovarian tissue re-implanted in her body. “This is just giving cancer patients a hope that technology will catch up by that time and they will be able to have children.”

The Dauers were first on TODAY in 2005, when Annie found out that she was pregnant. Stacy Trebing was watching the show, and listening to the Dauer’s story she began to think maybe this treatment could help her daughter. Her daughter Katie was two years old and had a rare form of anemia. Having this prevented her bone marrow from producing red blood cells. Katie received blood transfusions each month which kept her alive. Her mother gave birth to her brother and he was a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant. This procedure saved Katie’s life, and she’s now a healthy and completely normal 5-year-old. Although this procedure saved her life, it came with a high risk of becoming sterile. While waiting for a transplant, her mother thought back to the Dauer family on the TODAY show, and started to wonder if there was a way to allow her daughter to have her own children later on in life.

It turned out that she could. Dr. Kutluk Oktay, one of the doctors worldwide who performs the procedure, agreed to preserve Katie’s ovarian tissue.

New technology
There’s a big difference between boys and girls. With a prepubescent boy, they don’t start producing sperm until puberty. When they are rendered sterile by chemotherapy and radiation, they have no options to preserve the possibility of fathering their own children. With a girl, they are born with a lifetime supply of eggs in their ovaries. The idea is that the ovarian tissue can be frozen, and then implanted back into the girl when she is older and ready to start a family.

The procedure is very new, and fewer than 100 girls have undergone the surgery. These girls have been younger, so it is unknown yet if the frozen tissue will be capable of producing mature eggs. When the ovary is reattached it is not placed in its original location. Instead, the ovary is cut into pieces and frozen individually. With Annie Dauer, the doctors implanted the revived tissue under the skin of her stomach, where it attached to her blood vessels and began producing hormones and eggs. The reason this is done is to harvest the eggs and fertilize them in an in vitro procedure.


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