If you’ve ever searched for early menopause or premature ovarian failure (POF) online you’ll have discovered a fairly bleak prognosis: “Currently no fertility treatment has officially been found to effectively increase fertility in women with POF,” states Wikipedia, “and the use of donor eggs with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and adoption are popular as a means of achieving parenthood for women with POF. Some women with POF choose to live child-free.”
But things may be about to change for women and couples affected by POF. A groundbreaking new study has shown that early menopause may, in fact, be treated, and that fertility can be restored to women after a diagnosis of POF. The study used collagen as a “scaffold” to support umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UC-MCSs) which were transplanted into the ovaries of POF patients, “rescuing” their ovarian function (ability to ovulate).
How can stem cells restore fertility?
In the study, UC-MSCs elevated estradiol concentrations, improved follicular development, and increased number of antral follicles. Successful clinical pregnancy was achieved in women with POF after transplantation of collagen/UC-MSCs or UC-MSCs. “In summary,” the paper reports, “collagen/UC-MSC transplantation may provide an effective treatment for POF.”
How are umbilical cord stem cells collected?
UC-MSCs are stem cells collected from the umbilical cord tissue after the birth of a child. MSCs are found in highest concentrations in the Wharton’s Jelly part of the cord that surrounds and protects the blood vessels in the umbilical cord. Cord blood and tissue can be collected straight after a baby is born without affecting the mother or child in any way. The blood and tissue are then processed and stored cryogenically for up to 25 years.
What is premature ovarian failure?
Early menopause or premature ovarian failure (POF) are terms used to describe the same condition, whatever the cause. We prefer the less emotive term “early menopause”.
What causes early menopause?
“Early” is broadly considered to be before the age of 40. “Simply put,” explains the brilliant Daisy Network, “it means that the ovaries stop producing eggs years, and in some cases even decades, before they should. In addition, the ovaries are unable to produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which have important roles in women’s health and well-being.”
According to the NHS, “The cause of premature ovarian failure is often unknown, but in some women, it may be caused by:
- chromosome abnormalities – such as in women with Turner syndrome
- an autoimmune disease – where the immune system starts attacking body tissues
- certain infections, such as tuberculosis, malaria and mumps – but this is very rare
Premature ovarian failure can sometimes run in families. This might be the case if any of your relatives went through the menopause at a very young age (20s or early 30s).”
If you are expecting a child and would like to find out more about stem cell storage, click here.
BSc (Hons) Microbiology
Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.