Women, not being able to bear, children has been a hot topic for many since womanhood. This blog will explain the causes of infertility and how, in this technological era, stem cells can play a part in revitalizing fertility.
Premature ovarian insufficiency
POI is a condition where the ovaries stop working before a person turns 40. Commonly, the patients face flawed ovarian activity. Sometimes happens in teenage. Long before the time of menopause, patients experience irregular or completely absent menstrual periods.
At birth, 1-2 million eggs are present in the ovaries. Each of these eggs have a sac-like structure called follicle around them. After attaining puberty, a single follicle develops fully into a mature egg. Ovulation occurs resulting in the release of this egg every month.
On the other hand, patients with POI usually have a very low number of these follicles present. Often the follicles they do have are dysfunctional. Their maturation does not occur how its supposed to be. Also ovaries lack in producing sex hormones and releasing egg regularly or even at all. As a result, revitalizing fertility greatly. Despite this ovaries may perform occasionally, only 5-10% people with POI are able to conceive. Furthermore, the success rates of revitalizing fertility is really low unless donor eggs are used.
Stem cells as a treatment for POI
On the other hand, research has found that stem cells could be promising therapy to enhance ovarian function. According to a recent study, including 61 POI patients under the age of 35, intending to conceive, published that stem cells injections could be safe and effective to treat.
Stem cells are already a promising treatment for many diseases. Due to the fact that these cells have the capability to transform into any type of cells or tissues. From the evidence provided, it can be safe to say the stem cells could improve menstruation, hormone levels and, in rare cases, the ability to conceive. They produce substances that decrease the death rate of ovarian cells, stop ovarian aging and boost the formation of blood vessels.
Despite this encouraging progress, further exploration and proofs must be needed to accept stem cells as a standard treatment for POI patients.
Study on the effectiveness of stem cells
Globally, the stem cells transplanted in patients showed progress by improved ovarian function and increased follicle number. The positive result came into notice when researchers realized that patients receiving an injection in only one of the ovaries developed follicles in that ovary only.
Two other patients remarkably started menstruating again after one and a half year of irregular and missing periods. In addition, long after the treatment, one of them developed follicles in both ovaries. Proving the success of stem cell treatment.
In some cases stem cells also revitalized fertility. In fact, after stem cell transplant, some patients’ ovaries had matured follicles ready to ovulate. 3 of 8 patients were able to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Similarly, a patient got pregnant through having sex with partner.
Further research on the subject
The researchers also noticed that the results were quite divergent. In some patients, the therapy helped more than the others. To understand better, they compared the clinical aspects of both types of patients. They established that the patients who already had some follicles before transplant showed better results than those who didn’t. These findings were essential to categorize the patients who were likely to respond positively.
Besides the improvements, stem cells did not cause any serious side effects. Hence these cells, at least those derived from umbilical cord, could be promising and safe resource for POI treatment.
Some questions still remain unanswered. Like how long the effects last and how many doses are required. Somehow, the study indicated that more than once stem cell injection achieved higher follicle counts. However many patients were lost to follow-up.
To conclude, till date, the FDA has only accepted stem cell therapies for blood and immune disorders. Despite that, it is likely that the number of registered stem cell therapies will increase in the near future.