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Bone Marrow Restores Fertility After Chemo

Donor-derived egg cells detected in mice ovaries after transplant, study says

THURSDAY, Aug. 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Bone marrow transplantation restored reproductive capability to female mice that had undergone fertility-destroying chemotherapy, according to a study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

More research is needed to determine how a bone marrow transplant restores fertility in the mice, said the authors of the study, which was published in the Aug. 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers noted that donor-derived egg cells (oocytes) were detected in the ovaries of the marrow recipients, but all the pups born were from the recipients' own eggs.

"Consistent with our past work, cells derived from the donor bone marrow are getting into the ovaries and developing into immature oocytes," senior author Jonathan Tilly, director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at the hospital, said in a prepared statement. The oocyte is the precursor to the mature ovum (egg).

"Although these oocytes derived from marrow cells don't appear competent, at least thus far, to make fertilizable eggs, marrow does contribute something that allows a resumption of fertility in female mice sterilized by chemotherapy," said Tilly, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School.

"Right now, we really don't know exactly what it is in marrow that restores recipient oocyte production and rescues long-term fertility. However, we do know without question that immature oocytes can be generated from cells in adult bone marrow, but they are probably not critical to the fertility rescue observed after the transplants," Tilly said.

He noted that other studies have found that bone marrow cells from adult male mice or adult humans can be induced to produce immature sperm cells, both in the laboratory and after transplantation into the testes.

"Clearly, something is going on here regarding the ability of stem cells in bone marrow to produce immature egg and sperm cells, and we need to figure out what it is," Tilly said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about cancer and fertility.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, July 31, 2007
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