Cell therapy, a known panacea for several medical conditions-- liver cirrhosis, diabetes, PCOD and autoimmune diseases -- has added early menopause to the list of things it can possibly set right.
In a breakthrough treatment, cell therapy has reversed early menopause in several women, giving hope that they may be able to regain their fertility and even bear children. It has also eliminated their need for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
In one case, a 38-year-school teacher's ovaries which had prematurely stopped functioning were "rejuvenated" with cells extracted from her bone marrow (repokraft). The researcher extracted a sample from the woman's bone marrow and isolated about 5ml of cells. These were then injected into the patient's ovary. Once in the ovary, the cells stimulated the organ by pumping out growth factors and other chemicals.Six months down the line the "menopausal woman" started getting her periods again.
"It is hoped that the technique can be developed into a female infertility treatment to replace HRT with a one-time surgical procedure for women who experience severe menopause symptoms," said Dr Prabhu Mishra, CEO and co-founder StemGenn Therapeutics, a company that specialises in retrieval of best quality stem cells.
There is a very large number of women in India who suffer extreme menopausal problems but who avoid HRT because of its link to an elevated risk of breast cancer.
"With more research and clinical studies, it is hoped that such post-menopausal women will get relief from their symptoms and benefit from this therapy. They will no longer need HRT. With this therapy, their bodies will start producing oestrogen once again," said Mishra.
Cell therapy is being tested on patients with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), which sends one in 100 women into menopause before the age of 40. Patients with POI have menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and vaginal dryness. If they want to get pregnant, they need to borrow eggs from healthy donors. Scientists hope to enable women with POI to regain their fertility and be able to conceive.
Cell therapy holds promise of treating difficult cases of female infertility, say gynaecologists obstetricians and infertility experts. But they are cautiously optimistic. While finding it promising, they say that much more research is required before this can be seen as a solution for women who experience premature ovarian insufficiency.
Dr Mishra said, "We are treating patients with cell therapy and getting amazing results. Awareness about it is spreading slowly. People need to be made more aware of the immense potential of this treatment. It works well because cells derived from our own bone marrow have a supra-maximal quantity of growth factors that help stimulate and rejuvenate our body."