Scientists might have found a way to reverse the menopause, allowing women experiencing it to ovulate and release fertile eggs.
The findings could not just help women who want to have children later in life, but also those who have experienced early menopause, where symptoms begin before the age of 40.
Researchers said a blood treatment involving platelet-rich plasma (PRP) could hold the answer for menopausal women who want children.
“It offers a window of hope that menopausal women will be able to get pregnant using their own genetic material,” lead researcher Konstantinos Sfakianoudis, from Greek fertility clinic Genesis Athens, told New Scientist.
PRP is widely used to speed up the repair of damaged bones and muscles. Scientists believe it stimulates tissue regeneration.
Sfakianoudis and his team discovered that PRP also rejuvenates older ovaries.
In menopausal women, an injection of PRP into the ovaries helped to restart their menstrual cycles and enabled them to collect and fertilise the eggs that were released.
Out of 30 women aged 46-49 injected with PRP, two-thirds managed to have their eggs isolated and fertilised.
One of the study’s participants had been in the menopause for five years, since the age of 40. Six months after having PRP injected into her ovaries, she experienced a period.
Researchers took three eggs from the woman, two of which have been successfully fertilised by her husband’s sperm. It is hoped that these embryos will be implanted into her uterus so she can bear children.
The team also hopes to trial this treatment in post-menopausal women.
It is thought the injection of PRP works by stimulating a small number of stem cells responsible for making new eggs throughout a woman’s life. It is possible that PRP encourages these stem cells to regenerate tissue and produce hormones that make women ovulate.
Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director of Create Fertility clinics, told The Huffington Post UK that further studies are required to ensure the safety of eggs using this technique.
She wrote: “Until we establish that it is safe and ethical, I would urge caution.
“We also need to consider the welfare of women and children before offering this technology to post-menopausal women.”
Sfakianoudis’ team want to now conduct larger studies to understand how effective the treatment is.
The findings from their research were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Helsinki, Finland, earlier this month.