RH LRB3: Growth activation of resting ovarian follicles – a novel approach for fertility treatment and preservation

This study is performed Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at Rigshospitalet in collaboration with Dept. Clinical Chemestry at Lunds University Hospital

Some women with reduced fertility cannot benefit from traditional in assisted fertilisation methods. Women with failing ovary functions due to age, sudden diseases with limited oocyte reserves or adults or pre-pubertal girls who have to received chemotherapy need more specific methods to preserve and restore ovarian function with follicle activation and maturation.

Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue is an opportunity for these patients to maintain an option for pregnancy. Freezing the ovaries preserves the ability to restore ovarian function after transplantation. This method, however, has not yet reached its full potential. In order to increase the chances for later fertilization, additionally handling of the ovarian tissue is needed.

The follicle activation process is not fully understood. The ovary contain follicles in many different development stages. The vast majority will be small and resting primordial follicles, which contain an oocytes and surrounding granulosa cells. By a highly regulated irreversible process, a number of the primordial follicles is selected for growth and activation. Genomic and proteomic analysis have identified key paracrine and autocrine signaling pathways, which are associated with the first signs of primordial follicle activation. A number of the genes has been shown to exert both positive and negative effects of follicle activation. The development of a primordial follicle to a fully mature follicle with a competent oocyte takes about 5-6 months and is a complicated process, where a variety of hormones and growth factors play crucial roles.

This project aims to study the earliest stages of ovarian follicle development in order to understand the mechanisms leading to follicular growth. Based on this new knowledge it is the goal to implement a new method for assisted fertility treatment.

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