A new treatment that rejuvenates aging ovaries has helped two women previously believed to be infertile actually become pregnant, New Scientist reports. Scientists claim this is the first instance in which the blood-healing technique — which is typically used on sports injuries — has helped menopausal women conceive with their own eggs.
Gynecologist Kostantinos Sfakianoudis of the Genesis Athens Clinic in Greece attempted to help restore fertility in a group of female patients through the use of platelet-rich plasma, which entails isolating molecules that promote healing from a patient’s own blood, and then injecting it back into abnormal tissue. The technique is usually used to help tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints heal — and its effectiveness on fertility is currently unknown, New Scientist notes.
Sfakianoudis and his team used this experimental treatment to help 27 menopausal and perimenopausal women between the ages of 34 and 51. Some of the menopausal and perimenopausal women wanted to get pregnant, while others merely wanted to help stop the symptoms of menopause, which range from thinning hair to hot flashes. Clinical data provided to Gizmodo shows that 11 of those 27 women saw their menopause reversed, with their hormone levels returning to their previous levels and their menstrual cycle resuming.
Those who hoped to get pregnant then returned home to give IVF a shot, according to Sfakianoudis. The gynecologist told New Scientist that he is aware that two of his patients reportedly got pregnant afterward, including a woman referred to as WS, a 40-year-old from Germany who had all but given up after six unsuccessful attempts at IVF. Her seventh IVF attempt was reportedly successful after treatment.
“I had given up hope on trying to get pregnant. To me, it’s a miracle,” WS, who is now six months pregnant, told New Scientist.
The other woman Sfakianoudis says became pregnant — a 39-year-old from the Netherlands — miscarried a few months into her pregnancy. “Even with the miscarriage it’s extremely encouraging,” Sfakianoudis told New Scientist.
Yet, despite the promising results, doctors say further, more rigorous trials are needed. It’s not yet known how safe the treatment actually is, or how exactly it works. One theory is that the plasma “wakes up” stem cells in the ovary, which promotes the production of further eggs. The treatment also hasn’t been tested yet on anyone age 52 or older, and scientists pointed out that older pregnancies can be risky. “I do think it’s questionable whether we should allow women in their 60s and 70s to get pregnant,” Dr. Claus Yding Andersen of the Copenhagen University Hospital told New Scientist.
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