Kids with cancer get futuristic fertility chance; experimental tissue-freezing even for babies
To battle infertility sometimes caused by cancer treatment, some children's hospitals are trying a futuristic approach: removing and freezing immature ovary and testes tissue, with hopes of being able to put it back when patients reach adulthood and want to start families.
No one knows yet if it will work.
It has in adults - more than 30 babies have been born to women who had ovarian tissue removed in adulthood, frozen, and put back after treatment for cancer or other serious conditions. In lab animals, it's worked with frozen and thawed testes tissue.
But the procedures are still experimental in children who haven't reached puberty, and too new to have been attempted. There are challenges to making immature eggs and sperm from removed tissue suitable for conception. Still, fertility researchers hope to refine the science while the first generation of children whose tissue has been put on ice grows up.
Dr. John Lantos, bioethics chief at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, says offering children the experimental fertility-preserving procedures poses no ethical problems "as long as there's informed consent and a desire to do it."
Federal guidelines say there should be minimal risk to children involved in research, and risks need to be weighed against potential benefits, he said.
"Kids themselves when they grow up would likely appreciate having that (fertility) option," he said.
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