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  • A baby named Jules is the first to be born from an egg that was matured and frozen in the lab, an article in the journal Annals of Oncology reports.
  • His mom, a 34-year-old breast cancer survivor in France, had her immature eggs frozen before her cancer treatment at age 29 in an effort to preserve her fertility.
  • Previously, cancer patients would either get hormone injections to produce eggs to freeze, but that would've taken too long, or freeze ovarian tissue containing immature eggs, but that was too invasive.
  • Five years later, the woman had one of her lab-matured frozen eggs injected with sperm and implanted in her uterus, which resulted in a successful pregnancy and healthy birth.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA's home page.

When an unnamed French woman was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29, she and her doctors considered how she might improve her chances of getting pregnant in the future, since the cancer treatments would compromise her fertility, a new article in the journal Annals of Oncology reports.

She couldn't have her eggs frozen the typical way because the process of using hormone injections to prompt the ovaries to produce eggs before they were extracted and frozen would have taken too long and could have even made her cancer worse.

Another option was to freeze her ovarian tissue containing immature eggs, but that was considered too invasive just a few days after her diagnosis, her doctor Michael Grynberg, head of the fertility preservation department at the Antoine Beclere University Hospital near Paris, said in a news release.

So the woman and her medical team opted for a procedure that has never before resulted in a live birth: egg freezing after in vitro maturation, or IVM, meaning they'd extract immature eggs from her ovaries, mature them in a lab, and freeze them for later use.

Later turned out to be five years down the line, when the woman had recovered from cancer but couldn't get pregnant. The woman's eggs were thawed, injected with sperm, and one resulting embryo was transferred to her uterus. She became pregnant and, in July, gave birth to her baby boy, Jules.

"We were delighted that the patient became pregnant without any difficulty and successfully delivered a healthy baby at term," Grynberg said in the release, adding that his team has "accumulated" a lot of frozen eggs that were extracted and matured like the woman's; she was just the first to use hers and have it result in a live birth.

"This success represents a breakthrough in the field of fertility preservation," Grynberg said.

Egg or embryo freezing after 'ovarian stimulation' is still the most effective and efficient way to preserve fertility

When people talk about egg freezing, they usually mean going through the several-week (at least) process of taking hormones that prompt the ovaries to produce more eggs before those "mature" eggs are extracted and frozen in order to preserve their youth.

Both women with medical conditions like cancer and those who want the option of having children after their reproductive prime are candidates for this procedure, which remains the more "established and efficient" option, according to Grynberg.

Even more effective is embryo freezing, which involves merging the mature eggs with sperm before freezing the resulting embryo, since embryos are more robust and likely to survive the freezing and implanation process than eggs. This is a good option for the same populations of women if they know who they want the biological father of their future child or children to be.

The process the woman in the current study went through, by contrast, was especially delicate because doctors froze neither embryos or eggs, but tiny immature eggs they'd extracted from fluid-filled sacs in her ovaries. Immature eggs like them are typically discarded because the evidence has been weak that they can be frozen, thawed, and matured in a lab, Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a San Francisco-based reproductive endocrinologist, said in 2018, according to CNN.

The new article shows that not only can these immature eggs be frozen, thawed, and matured in a lab, but they can result in a healthy baby.

"This is an extraordinary advancement in our field," Dr. Christine Mullin, chief of the Northwell Health Fertility Center, in Manhasset, New York, told HealthDay. It gives another viable option to "women seeking to preserve their fertility prior to treatments like chemotherapy or surgery."

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