Researchers say they can now delay menopause by up to 20 years

A firm founded by a pioneer of in vitro fertilization (IVF) has announced that it has developed a procedure that can delay menopause by up to 20 years in some women.

According to reports in British media, Birmingham-based firm ProFam says that its new procedure, in which a small slice of ovarian tissue is removed and frozen for later re-implantation, will cost between $8,500 and $13,374 and could help preempt health problems that typically occur with the change in hormonal levels brought about by the onset of menopause.

Menopause typically is accompanied by mood swings, hot flashes, a lowered sex drive, and the development of medical conditions such as osteoporosis.

“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 [hormone replacement therapy], and there are lots of benefits around that,” Professor Simon Fishel told The Guardian.

Fishel was one of the pioneers of IVF and worked closely with Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, who were responsible for the birth of Louise Brown, the first test-tube baby, in 1978. Earlier this year, The Jewish Chronicle quoted Fishel describing the importance of his work, recalling a discussion he had had with a rabbi who encouraged him to work with IVF patients on Shabbat.

“Well, if it becomes absolutely necessary, giving life is more important than almost anything in Judaism,” the rabbi told him.

The pioneering new procedure involves removing ovarian tissue from a woman prior to menopause, freezing it, and then implanting a slice of that tissue following the onset of menopause. That implantation should then help restore the patient’s pre-menopause hormone levels. The procedure to remove the tissue has already been performed on nine women under the age of 36.

“Women are living longer than at any time in human history,” Fishel told British newspaper Metro. “It’s quite likely that many women will be in the menopause for longer than their fertile period. We are empowering women to take control of their own health by naturally delaying their menopause.

“We are at a fascinating point in the evolution of our species, but particularly in relation to medical care where remarkable things are happening,” he continued. “Now we can start to offer something to a younger generation of women that’s never been available before.”

The procedure is similar to one used to restore fertility to some women who undergo chemotherapy.