Developing novel techniques to preserve the fertility of children and young adults.
Many conditions and diseases require treatments that are gonadotoxic and lead to impaired infertility or sterility for both men and women, girls and boys. Eggs or sperm can be cryopreserved, however, this is not possible for many patients due to multiple reasons. At Oxford (Future Fertility Trust), we have established a cryopreservation facility that stores ovary and testis samples to preserve the future fertility of children and young adults who are unable to store eggs or sperm with the aim of re-implanting the tissue once the patient has recovered and is of an appropriate age.
However, for many patients, the tissue cannot be re-implanted as it may contain residual disease or is dysfunctional and therefore we need to develop techniques to generate mature eggs and sperm from these cryopreserved tissues.
Developing eggs in vitro using cryopreserved ovarian tissue is at the core of Prof. Williams research programme. To date, we have established culture techniques that support the early stages of oocyte development using cryopreserved tissues (Walker at al 2019; in press Human Fertility) which we are buliding on to enable further development.
Additional studies by the Williams group are also underway to develop novel ovarian tissue cryopreservation techniques and to preserve female fertility by preventing the gonadotoxic effects of chemotherapy.