Dr Hajra Khattak – Ovarian tissue transplants in preventing early menopause

What is the problem being addressed?

Premature Ovarian Insufficiency

Premature ovarian insufficiency is linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cognitive impairment and infertility. It is often caused by medical treatment and can potentially be prevented. Many women undergo surgery for removal of their ovaries or a significant part of the ovaries for conditions such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts. Operating on ovaries may cause premature menopause. This can negatively impact a woman’s life. 

Women with premature ovarian insufficiency currently are recommended to take Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) for long term and usually for more than 10 years. HRT does not suit all women, and many suffer with significant side effects. For some women, such as those with contraindications, HRT is not even an option. However, HRT is currently the most effective option to relieve symptoms of POI and there are no other effective alternatives.

What is the study being proposed?

We are offering an alternative treatment whereby patients undergoing surgical removal of both of their ovaries for medical reasons are offered ovarian transplantation. These transplants are strips of patient’s own healthy ovary, which are removed at the time of the surgery and transplanted into the lining of their pelvis. A similar procedure where the parts of the ovary are removed before medical treatments that would damage it, are frozen and then transplanted back, has already given promising results where women see a return in their normal female hormones and are even able to have children. Based on the success of this procedure what we propose is also expected to be successful i.e. where the ovary is transplanted back at the same time without it being frozen. In this study we aim to prove that these transplants restore the ovarian function and their normal female hormones in these women.

Why this is important?

If this procedure is proven to be effective, it will help prevent the debilitating effects of premature menopause as women will maintain their normal female hormone production. Our hope is that this will delay or avoid altogether, the need for hormonal therapy.