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Hum Reprod. 2011 Jun;26(6):1422-30. doi: 10.1093/humrep/der061. Epub 2011 Mar 18.

Ovarian surface epitheliectomy in the non-human primate: continued cyclic ovarian function and limited epithelial replacement.

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Division of Reproductive Sciences, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, OR 97006, USA.



The fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women is ovarian cancer (OC), which originates primarily in the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) that surrounds the ovary. Permanent removal of the OSE could provide a novel strategy to substantially reduce OC risk, while retaining the benefits of ovarian function, including gameto- and steroidogenesis. It must be determined whether ovarian surface epitheliectomy (OSEx) carries deleterious side effects, including loss of menstrual cyclicity, infertility or scarring (e.g. adhesions), prior to any clinical application of this strategy. To achieve this, we selected the non-human primate, rhesus macaque, for long-term (12 month) studies on the effects of OSEx.


Rhesus macaque females underwent OSEx by detergent treatment and were then monitored for menstrual cyclicity (menstruation, steroidogenesis and follicle development) and adverse side effects (tissue scarring or adhesions). Ovaries were collected at 6 or 12 months and examined for evidence of tissue damage, follicle rupture and regression of the corpus luteum. The ovarian surface was examined immunohistologically for signs of epithelial replacement, using markers for OSE and fimbrial epithelium (FE), a possible alternative source of pelvic tumors diagnosed as OC.


After OSEx, menstrual cycle length, estrogen and progesterone production, follicle rupture and luteal regression appeared normal. No evidence of adhesions was seen. At 6 and 12 months post-OSEx, the ovarian surface was sparsely populated by cells expressing OSE and FE markers. Proliferative activity in this population was notably low.


OSEx may provide a novel method to reduce the risk of OC, without sacrificing ovarian function, although the effects on fertility remain to be tested. The absence of epithelial replacement via enhanced proliferation suggests OSEx does not increase malignant potential. Complete and permanent OSEx may be feasible.

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