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New Hope For Infertile Women

(As reported 2/25/99)
At just 29 years old, Margaret Lloyd-Hart was already going through menopause, reports CBS News Correspondent Maggie Cooper.

"I didn't like the symptoms I was having and thought if there was any way I could eradicate them, and hormone replacement was not enough," Lloyd-Hart says.

Her search for relief led to Dr. Kutluk Oktay of New York Methodist Hospital and a groundbreaking surgical procedure that could relieve her hot flashes and exhaustion and even give her a chance to have a family.

"I told her this is an experimental procedure, you will be the first of a kind, and I have nothing to go by except animal studies," Oktay says.

Hart lost both of her ovaries to disease, but before her second ovary was removed last spring, she'd arranged for the tissue containing undeveloped eggs to be frozen.

Last Thursday, Dr. Oktay thawed the ovarian tissue and transplanted it back into Lloyd-Hart's pelvic wall where her ovary used to be. If successful, doctors believe this procedure could mean another chance for some infertile women.

It will be at least six to nine months before doctors know whether the ovarian tissue is fully functional and producing hormones. That's when the transplanted ovarian tissue should be producing hormones. For Lloyd-Hart, that could mean welcome relief.

"I think it's an important breakthrough if it actually works, and that remains to be seen," says Dr. James Grifo, a fertility specialist. "But for this group of patients in need, this technique would be a tremendous advantage over what we offer those patients."

The procedure was first shown to be successful in a sheep in 1996. The sheep gave birth to a healthy lamb after having an ovary removed, frozen and reimplanted. Dr. Oktay conducted a similar study in which he transplanted human ovarian tissue in mice. The surgery resulted in the development of mature eggs.

Lloyd-Hart, an Arizona resident, first learned of these studies through the Internet. She tracked down Dr. Oktay, and eventually flew to New York for the procedure with her cryogenically preserved ovary in a container on the seat beside her.

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