Freezing ovarian tissue may delay onset of menopause
British doctors are proposing a method to delay menopause and its unpleasant side effects by removing and freezing ovarian tissue, then grafting it back into the body when needed.
Dr. Simon Fishel, IVF doctor and founder of the ProFam company in Birmingham (England), has developed a procedure in which a small amount of ovarian tissue is removed via keyhole surgery from a woman aged 40 or under and then frozen.
When the patient later enters menopause, the tissue can then be reimplanted. If the ovarian tissue survives the process, it could then counteract declining sex hormones and delay menopause.
The likelihood of the procedure's success, however, is linked with the woman's age at the time of removal. Tissue removed from a 25-year-old woman could delay menopause by up to 20 years, while that removed from a 40-year-old woman would likely only push it back by five years, according to doctors at the clinic.
The intervention lasts for less than 30 minutes and has already been tested in nine British patients. However, it is pricey, costing between £7,000 and £11,000 (about R126,000 and R198,000).
The procedure could help many women fight the complications of menopause, which range from osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease to common symptoms like hot flashes, reduced libido, and mood swings.
A similar technique involving freezing and reimplantation of ovarian tissue has already been successfully used in girls and women undergoing cancer treatment in order to preserve their fertility.