About 11% of women worldwide suffer from premature ovarian failure. This can have many diverse causes: chemotherapy administered for a malignant disease might irrevocably damage the ovaries and, because of the advances in modern cancer therapy, the number of young women surviving cancer is on the increase. The women, some of whom are still very young, too soon enter menopause. Genetic diseases can also cause early menopause but, in most cases, no specific cause can be recognized. Now, for the first time, an international team of researchers led by MedUni Vienna has effectively transplanted an ovary from one individual to another, even managing to restore a monthly cycle.
“First of all, an premature menopause means that women cannot fulfil their longing for a child and, secondly, the associated drop in hormone levels can prematurely trigger osteoporosis or other menopausal complications,” explains Michael Feichtinger, lead author of the study from MedUni Vienna’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Using an animal model, the researchers have now attempted, for the first time, to perform an allogeneic ovary transplant (from one individual to another) — and this was done with the help of a new immunosuppressive agent known as PIF (preimplantation factor). This was done using two baboons at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi (Kenya). The outcome was that the transplant was successful in one of the animals, a functional monthly cycle was initiated; however it was not successful in the other.