First Ovarian-Transplant Baby Born

September 24, 2004; Brussels, BELGIUM ( CNN and Reuters) -- A Belgian woman has given birth to the first baby born after an ovarian tissue transplant, a medical breakthrough that brings hope to young cancer patients whose fertility may be damaged by treatment. The baby, a healthy girl named Tamara, was born at 7:05 PM (17:05 GMT) on Thursday in a hospital in Brussels and weighed 3.72 Kg (8.2 pounds). Her mother is Ouarda Touirat, 32, a hospital spokeswoman said. "The mother and baby are in excellent health," the spokeswoman told Reuters. "This astonishing feat gives tremendous hope to all women rendered infertile by cancer treatments," the hospital added in a statement.

Doctors led by Professor Jacques Donnez, head of the Department of Gynecology and Andrology at the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, removed and froze ovarian tissue from Touirat in 1997, when she was 25. Touirat had Stage-IV Hodgkin's Lymphoma and needed both chemo- and radio-therapy. Such treatments can save patients' lives but can also damage or destroy their fertility. The ovarian transplant was carried out six years after her treatment, when doctors declared she was free of cancer. Four months after the ovarian tissue was transplanted, Touirat's ovarian function was restored. Tamara was conceived naturally after the transplant.

"This unprecedented event, the culmination of ten years of research by Prof. Donnez and his team funded by the Televie and the FNRS, brings immense joy to the parents for whom this baby represents a true miracle," the hospital said.

The researchers published an article on-line in the medical journal The Lancet, which gave details of the procedure, illustrated with photographs. Using keyhole surgery, Donnez and his team took small samples from Touirat's left ovary, cooled them to minus 196oC and stored them in liquid Nitrogen.

"Ovarian tissue cryopreservation should be an option offered to all young women diagnosed with cancer, in conjunction with other existing options for fertility preservation," Donnez said in a statement. Women are born with a finite number of eggs which are formed in follicles in the ovaries. The number of eggs diminish as a woman ages until there are very few left and menopause begins. Although the aim of the ovarian tissue transplant is to help young infertile cancer patients to become mothers, the advance could also enable women to postpone childbearing past the natural menopause by freezing tissue when they are young and having it transplanted later.

Other teams of scientists have been working on ovarian transplantation but the Belgian team said they were the first to achieve a pregnancy and now a birth. Donnez and his team "have just achieved what no other team has ever managed before -- enabling a young patient cured of cancer to become a mother following autotransplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue," the hospital said.