One of the several unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy, which is often used to combat cancer, is damage to the ovaries. Researchers have recently shown that the use of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells provides one potentially promising way to treat the ovaries after the damage has occurred.
Depending on the age of the patient, the impact of chemotherapy-induced damage to the ovaries on quality of life can range from mild to devastating. For young patients who hope to have children, it is important to restore ovary function. Stem cells may provide a way to achieve this goal.
In the current study, researchers showed a number of positive effects of both injecting stem cells directing into the ovary, as well as injecting them less invasively, outside the body. The stem cell treatments were associated with recovery of the estrous cycle, and they led to a rise in sex hormone levels. In some cases, fertility was even restored and led to offspring that appeared to develop normally.
Though the restoration of ovary function occurred faster when the stem cells were injected into the ovaries, the long-term results of the two strategies were similar. These results suggest that a non-invasive form of stem cell therapy could be effective. However, when cells were injected directly into the ovary, they distributed within the ovary and uterus, whereas those injected from outside the body reached not only the ovary and uterus, but also the kidney, liver, and lungs. From this standpoint, direct injection of stem cells into the ovaries may be more desirable than injection from outside the body. However,
These data represent early evidence for the ability of stem cells to help reverse some of the damage that ovaries endure due to chemotherapy. However, the observation that ovary function can be improved as a result of stem cell injection provides an opportunity for further exploration into potential treatments for women whose ovaries have been damaged by chemotherapy.