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Obstetrics and Gynecology International
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 921082, 11 pages
Review Article

Stem Cell Interaction with Somatic Niche May Hold the Key to Fertility Restoration in Cancer Patients

Stem Cell Biology Department, National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Parel, Mumbai 400 012, India

Received 6 October 2011; Revised 8 December 2011; Accepted 19 December 2011

Academic Editor: Isabelle Demeestere

Copyright © 2012 Deepa Bhartiya et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The spontaneous return of fertility after bone marrow transplantation or heterotopic grafting of cryopreserved ovarian cortical tissue has surprised many, and a possible link with stem cells has been proposed. We have reviewed the available literature on ovarian stem cells in adult mammalian ovaries and presented a model that proposes that the ovary harbors two distinct populations of stem cells, namely, pluripotent, quiescent, very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs), and slightly larger “progenitor” ovarian germ stem cells (OGSCs). Besides compromising the somatic niche, oncotherapy destroys OGSCs since, like tumor cells, they are actively dividing; however VSELs persist since they are relatively quiescent. BMT or transplanted ovarian cortical tissue may help rejuvenate the ovarian niche, which possibly supports differentiation of persisting VSELs resulting in neo-oogenesis and follicular development responsible for successful pregnancies. Postnatal oogenesis in mammalian ovary from VSELs may be exploited for fertility restoration in cancer survivors including those who were earlier deprived of gametes and/or gonadal tissue cryopreservation options.