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Miracle baby offers hope

Brussels, Sept. 24 (Reuters): A Belgian woman has given birth to the first baby born after an ovarian tissue transplant, a medical breakthrough that brings hope to young cancer patients whose fertility may be damaged by treatment.

Ouarda Touirat, 32, gave birth to a healthy girl named Tamara in a Brussels hospital at 1705 GMT yesterday, seven years after she had banked her ovarian tissue before starting chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

'This astonishing feat gives tremendous hope to all women rendered infertile by cancer treatments,' the hospital said in a statement.

Doctors led by Professor Jacques Donnez, head of the department of gynaecology and andrology at the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, removed and froze ovarian tissue from Touirat in 1997, when she was 25.

Touirat had Stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma and needed both chemo- and radiotherapy. Such treatments can save patients' lives but can also damage or destroy their fertility.

The ovarian transplant was carried out six years after her treatment, when doctors declared she was free of cancer. Four months after the tissue was transplanted Touirat's ovarian function was restored.

Tamara was conceived naturally after the transplant.

'This unprecedented event, the culmination of 10 years of research by Professor Donnez and his team...brings immense joy to the parents for whom this baby represents a true miracle,' the hospital said.

'It is highly significant,' said Professor Bob Edwards, who pioneered the technique that resulted in the birth of the world's first test tube baby Louise Brown in 1978.

'It now offers a different approach and immense hope to couples who have been treated for cancers. The problem always was that the treatment would damage the fertility of the patient. That is all by-passed now. That, in itself, is a wonderful breakthrough.'

Details of Donnez's achievement were published in thelancet.com, the online edition of Lancet medical journal.

Using keyhole surgery, Donnez and his team took small samples from Touirat's left ovary, cooled them to minus 196 degrees centigrade and stored them in liquid nitrogen.

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