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Ovarian cryopreservation strategies and the fine control of ovarian follicle development in vitro


Address for correspondence: Joshua Johnson, Ph.D., 333 Cedar Street, FMB 329F, New Haven, CT 06520.


Preserving the fertility of women whose reproductive tract function is threatened by disease or disease treatment is a challenge for the assisted reproduction clinic. In particular, the ovary is susceptible to damage by chemo- and radiotherapeutic treatments, as the reserve of primordial follicles is susceptible to damage and death. To overcome this challenge, experimental strategies are being developed where ovarian tissue or an entire ovary is removed and cryopreserved during the patient's treatment. After recovery, the tissue is thawed and reintroduced orthotopically to the patient, in hopes that ovarian function will recover. In complementary approaches, attempts are being made to foster ovarian follicle development in vitro so that mature eggs can be produced. Here, we consider the state of the art of these strategies, and consider the question of whether whole ovary freezing has a place in fertility preservation in the foreseeable future.