The Egg Man

Dr. Sherman Silber says he can extend a woman's fertility by decades. All he needs is an ovary and some ice.

Silber hopes his latest breakthrough may help dispel some of those fears. In July one of his patients became perhaps just the fifth woman in the world to become pregnant from frozen ovarian tissue. Silber believes the pregnancy proves unequivocally that the science behind ovarian-tissue and egg freezing works. Silencing the critics, however, will likely take more time.

"When I first came out with vasectomy reversal, people cried that it was immoral," recounts Silber. "Then along came IVF and people cried it was unethical and immoral. But sooner or later they'll realize this is a great technique and the opposition will melt."

When that day comes it's likely Silber won't even notice. He'll have moved on to the next innovation.

Eric Fogelman
If Ashley Perkins wants to have a baby at the age of 38, her ovary will still be that of a 23-year-old.
EDWARD BIAMONTE
If Ashley Perkins wants to have a baby at the age of 38, her ovary will still be that of a 23-year-old.

This past January, Silber again made history when he became the world's first surgeon to successfully transplant an entire human ovary. The complicated, three-hour surgery required Silber to connect the ovary to the microscopic arteries that feed the organ.

"It's a surgical tour de force," marvels Roger Gosden, an internationally recognized biologist with New York's Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. "You need an extremely steady hand and great confidence when you're dealing with vessels less than a millimeter in diameter. Dr. Silber has a tremendous gift, especially when the stakes are high."

Scientists are now working on techniques that would allow for the freezing of whole ovaries for future transplantation. Such a procedure could theoretically eliminate the multiple operations required when ovarian-tissue grafts run out of eggs and have to be replaced. But Silber isn't convinced that's the direction the field should be heading.

"I'm not going to push it," he says. "It's an extraordinarily complex surgery and requires a serious incision. Sure, the whole ovary may last longer, but gosh. If we're getting just three to five healthy grafts from an ovarian-tissue operation, that's enough to restore the biological clock for a long while."

So, if not ovary freezing, what's next for the sexagenarian Silber? "I'm not sure, but I plan to be part of it," he says. "I'm going to die with my scrubs on." Remove ovary. Slice, dice and freeze in liquid nitrogen. Thaw and replace. Dr. Sherman Silber has a fertility recipe even a cancer

survivor can love.

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