Ovary transplants could switch off biological clocks

Successful ovarian grafts also mean women could delay menopause, says surgeon

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A technique to remove ovarian tissue and then replace it at a later date could allow women to remain fertile indefinitely, a surgeon has told a conference in Istanbul, reports the Telegraph.

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Dr Sherman Silber, a surgeon in Missouri, US, told the conference that 28 babies had been born around the world to women who had their ovarian tissue removed and then replaced or had been donated tissue from a twin. Most of the children had been conceived naturally without the need for IVF.

Although the technique was originally intended for cured cancer patients, the discovery that ovarian tissue frozen for a decade could be successfully transplanted proved the surgery was more robust and lasted a lot longer than expected, Dr Silber said, and could be extended to women who have a family history of early menopause or want to put their fertility on ice.

He and his colleagues wrote, “All modern women are concerned about what is commonly referred to as their ‘biological clock’ as they worry about the chances of conceiving by the time they have established their career and/or marriage and their financial stability.”

Dr Silber also said that women could in theory chose whether they wanted to go through menopause or not.

“A woman born today has a 50% chance of living to 100. That means they are going to be spending half of their lives post-menopause,” Dr Silber said.

“But you could have grafts removed as a young woman and then have the first replaced as you approach menopause age. You could then put a slice back every decade. Some women might want to go through menopause, but others might not,” he added.

Gynaecologist Tim Hillard from the British Menopause Society said the technique was “exciting” but that more data would be needed before claims could be made about the menopause.

“You would have to balance it very carefully, the higher risks of breast and womb cancer that go with having oestrogen circulating for longer against increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and maybe dementia that go with the menopause,” he said.

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