Possibly as revolutionary as the birth control pill, a new technique may offer a way to delay or reverse menopause. Allowing for treatment of menopause symptoms without the use of HRT or hormone replacement therapy which is falling out of favor because of its link to breast cancer.
The initial tests have proven very promising, restoring fertility in women who experienced premature menopause due to medical procedures. Some of the women say they want to continue the therapy.
Menopause occurs when the sex hormones like estrogen fall due to the lack of eggs being produced from the ovaries. This new technique stimulates the body to think it has received an egg from the ovary, thus stimulating the production of the sex hormones.
The procedure is actually quite simple in concept. Harvest eggs, freeze them, until the body stops producing eggs, then re-implant just a slice of an egg. One egg can produce about 20 slices, and according to a recent study, a 1-millimeter slices can function for around 2 years.
The study covered 41 women all of whom had been through chemotherapy and had their ovaries frozen in the event they wanted children. The chemotherapy had induced menopause, two of the women have had two or three grafts which has stayed off menopause for more than 10 years.
While the oldest woman in the study is 44, there is no reason to think that this same process will not work for naturally occurring menopause.
“We have shown that it works for 10 years and I would not be surprised if it lasts 30,” says Andersen, who argues for ovarian grafts to be offered as a treatment for menopause. “Because of the cancer patients you could argue this is already happening.”
As well as carrying out the procedure for medical reasons, Sherman Silber, head of the Infertility Center of St Louis in Missouri, has removed an ovary from 15 healthy women who want to delay having children, for example, for career reasons. Some in this group also plan to use their stored tissue to delay their menopause past the normal time.
While this treatment has not yet been approved for use, it does provide hope for women who want to delay menopause with the use of HRT.