During the procedure, which is currently being offered by Birmingham-based firm ProFam, a small piece of ovarian tissue is removed and then frozen at minus 150 degrees Celsius. The tissue is then re-implanted back into the woman’s body when she reaches menopause, at which time it can restore the woman’s pre-menopause hormone levels.
In addition to prolonging a woman’s fertility period, the procedure could delay common menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression and even osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle.
The procedure currently costs between $8,500 and $13,374.
“This has the potential to be of significant benefit to any woman who may want to delay the menopause for any reason, or those women who would have taken HRT [hormone replacement therapy], and there are lots of benefits around that,” ProFam doctor Simon Fishel recently told the Guardian, also noting that the procedure could delay menopause for “five, 10 or 20 years,” depending on when the woman freezes her ovarian tissue.
So far, nine women have had the procedure, which removes ovarian tissue using keyhole surgery, a minimally invasive operation that accesses body parts through small incisions.
“This is the first project in the world to provide healthy women ovarian tissue cryopreservation purely to delay the menopause,” the company’s chief medical officer, Yousri Afifi, told the Sunday Times.
While some researchers believe the procedure could greatly cut costs for conditions related to menopause, such as osteoporosis, others remain skeptical of the procedure, claiming that doctors already use similar procedures to safeguard the fertility of women undergoing cancer treatment.
Richard Anderson, deputy director of the Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh University, recently told The Observer that it is “old news” that ovarian tissue transplants could restore pre-menopause hormone levels.
“What is less clear is whether this is a safe and effective way of doing so,” he noted.