Infertile cancer patient has world's first baby using frozen lab-matured egg

The French woman gave birth to a boy five years after her eggs were first frozen

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - The IVF laboratory equipped with the latest tools and technology at the HealthPlus WomenÕs Fertility Centre on January 22, 2018. (Khushnum Bhandari/ The National)

A French woman who was left infertile due to cancer has given birth to the world's first baby using frozen eggs matured in a lab.

Medics removed seven immature eggs from her ovaries and used a technique called in vitro maturation (IVM) to allow the eggs to develop further in a laboratory.

In her case the eggs were matured and then frozen for five years before being thawed and fertilised.

Up to now, there have been no successful pregnancies in cancer patients with eggs that have undergone IVM and freezing.

Some children, however, have been born as a result of IVM immediately followed by fertilisation and transfer to the patient.

The breakthrough was announced in the journal Annals of Oncology on Wednesday and describes how the baby boy was born to a 34-year-old French woman who had been treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Michael Grynberg, head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Preservation at Antoine Beclere University Hospital near Paris, was involved in the woman's case when she developed cancer aged 29.

"This success represents a breakthrough in the field of fertility preservation," he said.

"I offered her the option of egg freezing after IVM, and also freezing ovarian tissue.

"She rejected the second option, which was considered too invasive a couple of days after cancer diagnosis."

The cryopreservation of ovarian tissue is an experimental method in which the outer layer of an ovary - which contains immature eggs - is taken out of the body and frozen for future use.

In the case of the French patient, ultrasound revealed that there were 17 small, fluid-filled sacs containing immature eggs in her ovaries.

But using hormones to stimulate the ovaries to ripen the eggs would have taken too long and might have made her cancer worse, leaving retrieval of the immature eggs and freezing as the best option.

After five years, the patient recovered from breast cancer, but she was unable to conceive naturally after chemotherapy left her infertile.

Six of the eggs that had been frozen five years earlier survived the thawing process, and five were successfully fertilised.

One of these fertilised eggs was transferred to the patient's womb, and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Jules  last July.