‘Biological clock’: a term widely used by society to refer to the diminishing ovarian reserve in women since the 1950’s. It has been well known that the human ovary has a finite number of eggs and no new eggs are formed during the course of a woman’s life.
Some time back in 2012, stem cells were discovered in human ovaries following an observation of the same in mice ovaries. The division of these stem cells suggested that new eggs could be formed – making it biologically sensible as sperm is continuously replenished. Late last year, a research group at University of Edinburgh led by Professor Evelyn Tefler discovered that cancer patients treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs known as AVBD did not have similar infertility issues to other cancer patients. Examination of their ovarian tissue showed an increased number of follicles in each ovary. While presenting these results in a conference, Evelyn proposed that AVBD treatment stimulated the growth of new eggs.
This study was conducted on Hodgkins lymphoma patients. While it may seem implausible, these results cannot be ignored: because the follicular density observed in the treated cancer patients were between double to four times and looked ‘younger’ than that of a similarly aged healthy control patient. Other patients used in the study who were on a stronger chemotherapy drug also showed a lower follicle density. There are however obvious concerns to be addressed, such as the side effects of using chemotherapy drugs on non-cancer patients, the limited sample size used and the viability of these newly stimulated eggs. Any wrong deductions would lead to debilitating effects.
While this discovery needs more sufficient evidence and research; it raises the prospects of treating infertility and halting or delaying menopause. It would also solve the major limitation of insufficient and good quality eggs in assisted reproduction such as In Vitro Fertilization.
Image Credit: Unsplash.com- Benji Aird