Women who go through an early menopause could soon be given the chance to have children again thanks to a pioneering stem cell treatment. Scientists have come up with a way of restoring the ovaries' ability to produce eggs using cells specially developed in the lab.
The new technique offers hope for the thousands of women who go through menopause before the reach the age of 40, meaning they are unable to have children.
There is no current treatment for the condition, known as Premature Ovarian Failure, which affects 1 per cent of all women. It causes their ovaries to stop producing eggs 10 or even 30 years earlier than normal leaving them infertile, when many were hoping to have babies. But scientists in Cairo have come up with a method which they say could be developed to help restore the ovaries to their normal working order.
In a study involving rats, the researchers created a special type of stem cell known as a mesenchymal stem cell from rat embryos. They then implanted these cells into female rats who had been a chemical to induce ovarian failure.
They found that within two weeks the female rates ovaries were working normally, and within two months their hormone levels were the same as animals who did have the illness.
The researchers, who presented their findings to the World Congress on Fertility and Sterility in Munich, say the concept could be developed to treat women with the condition.
Professor Osama Azmy, who led the study, said: 'This work shows that Mesenchymal Stem Cells can restore ovarian function. The treated ovaries returned to producing eggs and hormones, and we could detect the presence of the stem cells within the newly functioning ovaries.
'What we have done is proven that we can restore apparently fully- functioning ovaries in rats. The next step is to look how these rats might reproduce, and to characterise the chromosomes of offspring following treatment.
'We have not yet reached the stage of producing offspring, and so we will need to understand if the baby rats will be genetically related to the mother, or to the donor of the stem cells.
'This is proof of concept, and there is still a long way to go before we can apply this to women. Nevertheless, this work holds out the possibility that women with premature ovarian failure might be able to bear a baby of their own.' Some women suffer from premature menopause, the other name for the condition, as early as 20.
Once their ovaries have stop producing eggs completely they cannot have children, even with the help of IVF. It is not clear what causes premature menopause to happen but it often occurs in those who were given chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments for cancer earlier on in life.
Women who suffer from the condition are more at risk from general health problems associated with the menopause such as blood clots, osteoporosis and associated bone fractures and heart disease.
Article:15th September 2010 www.dailymail.co.uk
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