July 23, 2016

Researchers reverse menopause and enable ovaries to release fertile eggs

A team claims to have found a way to rejuvenate post-menopausal ovaries, enabling them to release fertile eggs.

The team says its technique has restarted periods in menopausal women, including one who had not menstruated in five years. If the results hold up to wider scrutiny, the technique may boost declining fertility in older women, allow women with early menopause to get pregnant, and help stave off the detrimental health effects of menopause.

“It offers a window of hope that menopausal women will be able to get pregnant using their own genetic material,” says Konstantinos Sfakianoudis, a gynaecologist at the Greek fertility clinic Genesis Athens.

“It is potentially quite exciting,” says Roger Sturmey at Hull York Medical School in the UK. “But it also opens up ethical questions over what the upper age limit of mothers should be.”

Fifties could be the new forties for older women giving birth with rejuvenated ovaries

Women are thought to be born with all their eggs. Between puberty and the menopause, this number steadily dwindles, with fertility thought to peak in the early 20s. Around the age of 50, which is when menopause normally occurs, the ovaries stop releasing eggs – but most women are already largely infertile by this point, as ovulation becomes more infrequent in the run-up. The menopause comes all-too-soon for many women, says Sfakianoudis

To turn back the fertility clock for women who have experienced early menopause, Sfakianoudis and his colleagues have turned to a blood treatment that is used to help wounds heal faster.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is made by centrifuging a sample of a person’s blood to isolate growth factors – molecules that trigger the growth of tissue and blood vessels. It is widely used to speed the repair of damaged bones and muscles, although its effectiveness is unclear. The treatment may work by stimulating tissue regeneration.

Sfakianoudis’s team has found that PRP also seems to rejuvenate older ovaries, and presented some of their results at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Helsinki, Finland, this month. When they injected PRP into the ovaries of menopausal women, they say it restarted their menstrual cycles, and enabled them to collect and fertilise the eggs that were released.

“I had a patient whose menopause had established five years ago, at the age of 40,” says Sfakianoudis. Six months after the team injected PRP into her ovaries, she experienced her first period since menopause.

Sfakianoudis’s team has since been able to collect three eggs from this woman. The researchers say they have successfully fertilised two using her husband’s sperm. These embryos are now on ice – the team is waiting until there are at least three before implanting some in her uterus.

SOURCE- New Scientist

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