The developments in any medical research field can often seem light years away from actual implementation, but the network of Magee-Womens Research Institute, UPMC, and the University of Pittsburgh provides the ideal environment for translating the lab bench discoveries of the Fertility Preservation Program of Pittsburgh into clinical practice.

The Fertility Preservation Program offers one of the most comprehensive menus of fertility preservation options available in the United States. Dr. Kyle Orwig and the Fertility Preservation Program’s team of scientists provide not only standard of care but also experimental options to preserve the fertility of adults and children. The program’s prime location in the healthcare hub of Pittsburgh and its first-class medical network gives researchers access to recruit patients into experimental protocols and to deploy novel therapies into the clinic.

Experimental Therapies in Fertility Preservation

The research laboratories at the Fertility Preservation Program are actively developing stem cell therapies, gene therapies, and other methodologies to help patients with the most difficult fertility challenges. An experimental egg freezing protocol introduced in 2010 has now transitioned to standard of care. Dr. Orwig and his researchers are excited about these innovative developments. “We hope our other experimental therapies will follow a similar path from bench to bedside.”

It’s especially trying for young patients who are at risk for infertility due to disease and other medical treatments. Fertility isn’t often on the minds of boys and girls who are battling more immediate health concerns such as cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or even mumps. The ability to bring hope to these patients years later is a groundbreaking medical feat the Fertility Preservation Program is diligent in advancing.

“We are recruiting patients with the most difficult fertility challenges into experimental protocols to study the causes of infertility, and preserve and/or treat infertility. For example, boys and girls who must undergo chemotherapy or radiation for cancer are at risk for infertility due to these treatments. While they are not yet old enough to produce sperm or freeze eggs, we can freeze their testicular tissues and ovarian tissues and give them the opportunity for biological children later in life.” In the laboratory, Dr. Orwig and the faculty and staff of the Fertility Preservation Program of Magee are developing the technologies that will allow those patients to use their own tissues to have biologically-related children years down the road. “We are also working to understand the fertility decline in boys with Klinefelter’s syndrome to determine whether early intervention to preserve fertility will increase their chances to have children in the future.”

A Network of Fertility Affiliates

In addition to UPMC, the Fertility Preservation Program in Pittsburgh has coordinated recruitment centers in Washington D.C.; Cincinnati; Chicago; Rochester, MN; Los Angeles; Milwaukee, WI; and Beer Sheva, Israel. This allows the organization to recruit patients from affiliated sites in the United States and beyond as well as provide leadership through sharing knowledge and piloting experimental protocols among the coordinated centers.

Continued research into the field of fertility preservation will yield more exciting results not only for people experiencing infertility, but also for an individual whose fertility has been or could be impacted by disease. Perhaps even one day medical research can prevent infertility before it happens!

There is more in store for the future of fertility preservation. Read more about innovative new fertility treatment options and considerations in the next installment.

Fertility Preservation Program (FPP) coordinators as well as the staff in the Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology (CFRE) at Magee are available any time to counsel patients and/or their physicians about fertility risks and treatment options. We can be reached at our dedicated fertility preservation phone line (412-641-7475) or email fertilitypreservation@upmc.edu. Additional information can be found at the FPP’s website.