Even though many people long to parent children at some stage of their lives, sometimes life possesses unexpected challenges and difficulties that prevent this. Luckily, technological advances in fertility preservation offer hope to women and men who wish to have children at an older age. From freezing ovarian and testicular tissue to implementing Artificial intelligence (AI) strategies, researcher Rotem Sisso gives a thorough run-down of new technologies in fertility preservation which can make parenthood a reality.
Currently, the most common method of fertility preservation in women is freezing fertilized and unfertilized eggs and this can be done for medical or socio-economic reasons. Alongside this method, there is great interest in developing other solutions for fertility preservation in women and men.
Freezing and transplanting ovarian tissue
Freezing ovarian tissue is a method implemented in girls and young women with cancer who are expected to be treated with chemotherapy or radiation which might damage their fertility. Women undergoing this process have a sample of ovarian tissue taken out and frozen. When the right time comes (after healing and/or reaching puberty) the ovarian tissue can be transplanted back into the woman’s body. This allows most women to regain ovarian function and the ability to become pregnant. From data collected up to 2017, over 130 babies around the world were successfully born using this method.
In-vitro (outside the body) egg maturation
The most common method for egg collection involves several days of hormonal stimulation after which mature eggs are collected and stored. The process of egg collection can be complicated by side-effects caused by the hormonal treatment but there is an alternative. The method of in-vitro egg maturation involves the collection of unmatured eggs without hormonal stimulation. After the eggs are collected, they undergo maturation in a controlled laboratory before being fertilized. This method is considered less invasive with fewer side effects but studies examining its efficacy compared to classic egg collection are lacking. Currently this treatment is experimental and is reserved for special patient populations.
Freezing and transplanting testicular tissue
Fertility preservation is essential for men as well as women. In the last few years there have been several novel discoveries in the field of male fertility preservation. One of these novel methods involves extracting a small piece of testicular tissue, freezing it and later transplanting it back (somewhat similarly to ovarian tissue transplanting). This method is mostly relevant for boys who require fertility preservation and is currently undergoing clinical research.
AI for fertility prediction
AI is increasingly in use in every aspect of life including medicine. Lately, AI-based algorithms that predict and help solve fertility problems are being developed. In a recent study published in October 2022, an AI-based model was tested in a group of 240 men with varicocele (an enlarged vein in the scrotum that can cause fertility problems). The model predicted with a success rate of 87%, in which men, surgically treating the varicocele will improve fertility. Another study found that an AI-based model can predict which in-vitro fertilization will end with a successful pregnancy.
To summarize, advances in fertility preservation have made parenthood attainable for many women and men. Novel methods are constantly developed and no doubt that in the near future even more people will be able to become parents.