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Roger G Gosden

Ovarian and uterine transplantation are procedures gaining more attention again because of potential applications in respectively fertility preservation for cancer and other patients and, more tentatively, women with uterine agenesis or hysterectomy. Cryopreservation of tissue slices, and possibly whole organs, is providing opportunities for banking ovaries for indefinite periods before transplanting them back to restore fertility. The natural plasticity of this organ facilitates grafting to different sites where they can be revascularized and rapidly restore the normal physiology of secretion and ovulation. Ischemic damage is a chief limitation because many follicles are lost, at least in avascular grafts, and functional longevity is reduced. Nevertheless, grafts of young ovarian tissue, even after cryopreservation, can be highly fertile in laboratory rodents and, in humans, autografts have functioned for up to 3 years before needing replacement. Transplantation by vascular anastomosis provides potentially longer function but it is technically much more demanding and riskier for the recipient. It is the only practicable method with the uterus, and has enabled successful pregnancies in several species, but not yet in humans. Contrary to claims made many years ago, neither organ is privileged immunologically, and allografts become rapidly rejected except in hosts whose immune system is deficient or suppressed pharmacologically. All in all, transplantation of these organs, especially the ovary, provides a broad platform of opportunities for research and new applications in reproductive medicine and conservation biology.

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Roger G Gosden

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Sarah E Harris, Iris Adriaens, Henry J Leese, Roger G Gosden and Helen M Picton

Metabolic markers are potentially valuable for assessment of follicle development in vitro. Carbohydrate metabolism of murine preantral follicles grown to maturityover 13 days in vitro has been measured, and metabolism of resulting oocyte–cumulus complexes (OCCs) and denuded oocytes has been compared with in vivo ovulated control counterparts. Spent follicle culture media were analysed for glucose, lactate and pyruvate concentrations. During follicle in vitro growth, glycolysis accounted for a rise from ∼24 to 60% of all glucose consumed. Ovulation induction caused a significant increase in glucose uptake and lactate production by in vitro-grown follicles to 71.7±1.2 and 96.6±4.8 nmoles/day respectively. OCCs grown in vitro had significantly higher rates of glucose consumption and lactate and pyruvate production (110.1± 3.5, 191.8± 8.9 and 31.7± 1.7 pmoles/h respectively) than in vivo ovulated controls (67.4± 8.1, 113.9± 17.1 and 20.2± 4.0 pmoles/h respectively), but a reduced capacity for pyruvate consumption (1.13± 0.06 vs 1.49± 0.06 pmoles/h by in vivo ovulated oocytes). Metabolism of OCCs was affected by the quality of the original follicle. In vitro-grown oocytes had a reduced cytoplasmic volume when compared with controls (168.3± 2.0 vs 199.0± 3.2 proportionately respectively) but a similar rate of metabolism per unit volume. Meiotic status influenced metabolism of both OCCs and denuded oocytes. In conclusion, glucose consumption and lactate production by cultured follicles increased in tandem with developmental progression and were stimulated prior to ovulation. Additionally, the metabolic profiles of in vitro produced OCCs and the oocytes within them are affected by long-term exposure to the culture environment.