With the aid of a new immunosuppressive agent known as PIF (preimplantation factor), researchers at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi,  Kenya, have successfully transplanted an ovary from one individual to another, even managing to restore a monthly cycle. 

Approximately 11 percent of women worldwide suffer from premature ovarian failure. This can have many different causes: chemotherapy administered for a malignant disease might irreversibly damage the ovaries and, because of the advances in modern cancer therapy, the number of young women surviving cancer is on the increase. The women, some of whom are still very young, prematurely enter menopause. Genetic diseases can also trigger early menopause.

Michael Feichtinger, lead author of the study from MedUni Vienna's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Samuel Kim from the University of Kansas School of Medicine and Mats Brännström from the University of Gothenburg (the latter successfully performed the first series of successful womb transplants in the world in 2014) treated two baboons with PIF both before and after transplantation. The outcome: the transplant was successful in one of the animals, a functional monthly cycle was initiated – however it was not successful in the other. 

"Notwithstanding this, the study is still very promising. These results would suggest that successful ovarian transplantation might be possible in future," says Feichtinger. "The researchers also demonstrated that the new immunosuppressive agent PIF functions well without side-effects and this could open up new potential applications for other types of transplant procedure."

Further studies are being conducted to demonstrate precisely which factors are important in ensuring the success of the transplant.

Reference: "Allogene Transplantation of Ovarian Tissue with Sole Use of Novel Immunomodulator, Preimplantation Factor (PIF), Restored Ovarian Function in Baboons." M. Feichtinger, E.R. Barnea, A. Nyachieo, M. Brannström, S. Kim.  Presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Salt Lake City.