Those who read the previous blog on POI may be wondering if there is any way to revive the function of an ovary after premature ovarian failure (POF). The answer to this is filled with great ideas, but very limited success.
It sounds like a very attractive phrase; but the reality is more gray than sunny (at least currently). The basis for ovarian rejuvenation is the idea that ovarian tissue can be stimulated to encourage egg development. This is done by either injection or exposure to various growth factors. The most well studied version of this involves the injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) into the ovary. This PRP is extracted from the blood of the woman undergoing the ovarian rejuvenation. Since platelets are filled with hundreds of cellular growth signals, it’s thought that these growth signals can help stimulate egg development in the ovary.
While this is a reasonable and enticing prospect, in practice its performance has been less-than-convincing. Numerous studies have looked at PRP and have shown mixed results. In the largest study, out of 311 women only 8% ever achieved a sustained pregnancy. When you consider that women with premature ovarian failure have an approximately 6% chance of pregnancy, the improvement indeed falls short of being a dramatic ‘rejuvenation’ of the ovary.
Nonetheless, there is active research now to find other ways to restore the reproductive ability of an ovary in a woman with premature ovarian failure. One approach is the use of stem cells; either extracted from pregnancy-related tissues or from induced stem cells made from abundant tissues like skin. Developing eggs from stem-cells remains a hot research topic, but still far from clinical use.
Another approach is to enhance the energy-producing structures in the eggs, called mitochondria. Only limited human studies have been done using this technique and much more work remains before we can consider this a useful treatment.
While we don’t yet have the tools to truly ‘rejuvenate’ the ovaries, there is immense potential on the horizon in term of possible treatments for POF. Just as once in-vitro fertilization (IVF) seemed like a fantasy, these treatments may become reality quicker than we imagine.