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Biopsying, fragmentation and autotransplantation of fresh ovarian cortical tissue in infertile women with diminished ovarian reserve

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STUDY QUESTION: Can ovarian biopsying per se and/or autotransplantation of fragmented ovarian cortical tissue activate dormant follicles and increase the number of recruitable follicles for IVF/ICSI in women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR)? SUMMARY ANSWER: Ovarian biopsying followed by immediate autotransplantation of fragmented cortical tissue failed to increase the number of recruitable follicles for IVF/ICSI 10 weeks after the procedure either at the graft site or in the biopsied ovary, but 12 of the 20 women subsequently had a clinical pregnancy during the 1-year follow-up. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Infertile women with DOR constitute a group of patients with poor reproductive outcome mainly due to the low number of mature oocytes available for IVF/ICSI. Recent studies have shown that in vitro activation of residual dormant follicles by both chemical treatment and tissue fragmentation has resulted in return of menstrual cycles and pregnancies in a fraction of amenorrhoeic women with premature ovarian insufficiency. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This is a prospective clinical cohort study including 20 women with DOR treated at the fertility clinic, Rigshospitalet, Denmark, during April 2016-December 2017. Non-pregnant patients were on average followed for 280 days (range 118-408), while women who conceived were followed until delivery. Study follow-up of non-pregnant patients ended in September 2018. PARTICIPANTS, MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: The study included infertile women aged 30-39 years with preserved menstrual cycles, indication for IVF/ICSI and repeated serum measurements of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) ≤ 5 pmol/L. Patients were randomized to have four biopsies taken from either the left or the right ovary by laparoscopy followed by fragmentation of the cortical tissue to an approximate size of 1 mm 3 and autotransplanted to a peritoneal pocket. The other ovary served as a control. Patients were followed weekly for 10 weeks with recording of hormone profile, antral follicle count (AFC), ovarian volume and assessment for ectopic follicle growth. After 10 weeks, an IVF/ICSI-cycle with maximal ovarian stimulation was initiated. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: No difference in the number of mature follicles after ovarian stimulation 10 weeks after the procedure in the biopsied versus the control ovaries was observed (1.0 vs. 0.7 follicles, P = 0.35). In only three patients, growth of four follicles was detected at the graft site 24-268 days after the procedure. From one of these follicles, a metaphase II (MII) oocyte was retrieved and fertilized, but embryonic development failed. Overall AMH levels did not change significantly after the procedure (P = 0.2). The AFC increased by 0.14 (95% CI: 0.06;0.21) per week (P < 0.005), and the biopsied ovary had on average 0.6 (95% CI: 0.3;-0.88) follicles fewer than the control ovary (P = 0.01). Serum levels of androstenedione and testosterone increased significantly by 0.63 nmol/L (95% CI: 0.21;1.04) and 0.11 nmol/L (95% CI: 0.01;0.21) 1 week after the procedure, respectively, and testosterone increased consecutively over the 10 weeks by 0.0095 nmol/L (95% CI: 0.0002;0.0188) per week (P = 0.045). In 7 of the 20 patients, there was a serum AMH elevation 5 to 8 weeks after the procedure. In this group, mean AMH increased from 2.08 pmol/L (range 1.74-2.34) to 3.94 pmol/L (range 3.66-4.29) from Weeks 1-4 to Weeks 5-8. A clinical pregnancy was obtained in 12 of the 20 (60%) patients with and without medically assisted reproduction (MAR) treatments. We report a cumulated live birth rate per started IVF/ICSI cycle of 18.4%. LIMITATIONS, REASON FOR CAUTION: Limitations of the study were the number of patients included and the lack of a non-operated control group. Moreover, 9 of the 20 women had no male partner at inclusion and were treated with donor sperm, but each of these women had an average of 6.8 (range 4-9) unsuccessful MAR treatments with donor sperm prior to inclusion. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Although 12 out of 20 patients became pregnant during the follow-up period, the current study does not indicate that biopsying, fragmenting and autotransplanting of ovarian cortical tissue increase the number of recruitable follicles for IVF/ICSI after 10 weeks. However, a proportion of the patients may have a follicular response in Weeks 5-8 after the procedure. It could therefore be relevant to perform a future study on the possible effects of biopsying per se that includes stimulation for IVF/ICSI earlier than week 10. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This study is part of the ReproUnion collaborative study, co-financed by the European Union, Interreg V ÖKS. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and interpretation, or decision to submit the work for publication. None of the authors have a conflict of interest. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT02792569.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Volume34
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1924-1936
Number of pages13
ISSN0268-1161
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • diminished ovarian reserve/Hippo pathway/IVF/poor responders/ovarian fragmentation

ID: 58109253