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Could ovarian tissue freezing delay menopause? Here’s what research shows

Scientists at Yale School of Medicine published research on possible outcomes when menopause is delayed via ovarian tissue freezing

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A new paradigm around the biological processes of menopause is capturing the attention of scientists in the US.

A small group of researchers in the US are analysing the possibility of delaying menopause in healthy women, allowing them to extend their child-bearing years, and perhaps even forestall some of the health risks and uncomfortable symptoms.

This, however, could be controversial. While some people may believe that such research could lead to life-changing benefits for women, others may think the menopause should not be “pathologised” by medical science.

At Yale School of Medicine, Kutluk Oktay, an ovarian biologist who is director of the Laboratory of Molecular Reproduction and Fertility Preservation, recently added a new chapter to this conversation by publishing research on various possible outcomes when menopause is delayed in healthy women via ovarian tissue freezing.

Oktay, who developed and performed the world’s first ovarian transplant procedure with cryopreserved tissue for a patient with a medical indication in 1999, sees a future in which healthy women could use this process of freezing tens of thousands of eggs within the ovarian tissue to stave off menopause for as long as several decades — or even prevent its onset altogether.

“For the first time in medical history, we have the ability to potentially delay or eliminate menopause,” he said.

A mathematical model to predict outcomes for delayed menopause

Using data from hundreds of previous ovarian cryopreservation and transplantation procedures and molecular studies of how ovarian follicles behave in ovarian tissue, Oktay and his colleagues built a new mathematical model to predict how long the surgery could potentially delay menopause under a range of circumstances in healthy women.

Since Oktay performed the first successful transplantation with cryopreserved tissue, ovarian tissue cryopreservation has been successfully used in cancer patients to preserve their fertility before their treatments, which can often permanently damage the egg reserve in the ovaries and trigger menopause.

During this outpatient procedure, a surgeon laparoscopically removes the whole ovary or layers of the outer portion, which contains hundreds of thousands of dormant, immature eggs, known as primordial follicles.

These tissues are then stored in sealed containers after being frozen with a specialised process and kept as low as negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Freezing ovarian tissue with this specialised process preserves it for later use. At some point in the future, the surgeon reimplants the thawed tissue into the patient either laparoscopically or with a simple procedure, using methods developed by Oktay, that places the tissue under the patient’s skin while intravenous sedation is administered.

Within three to 10 days after that, this transplanted tissue regains connections with the surrounding blood vessels and restores ovarian function in about three months.

The recently published mathematical model focusing on healthy women undergoing ovarian tissue cryopreservation considers multiple factors, including the age at which a patient gets the procedure, which plays a significant role in how long menopause can potentially be delayed.

“The younger the person, the larger number of eggs she has, as well as the higher the quality of those eggs,” Oktay said.

The model accounts for women between the ages of 21 and 40. Beyond age 40, data show that the procedure is unlikely to delay menopause for a woman with average egg reserve, but this can change with the development of more efficient freezing and transplantation methods in the future.

Furthermore, the model offers insight into the ideal amount of ovarian tissue to collect. The more tissue a surgeon removes, the longer the procedure can potentially delay menopause. However, the removal of too much tissue can lead to early menopause.

“This model gives us the optimum amount of tissue to harvest for a person of a given age,” explained Oktay.

The model also takes into account the healing process after a surgeon returns the harvested ovarian tissue to the patient. During this healing process, some of the primordial follicles are lost.

Studies on animal models show that as many as 60 per cent of primordial follicles do not survive post-transplantation, leaving 40 per cent that are viable. With newer technologies, Oktay said that he believes surgeons can attain a survival rate of up to 80 per cent.

As the procedure continues to improve, he hopes to eventually achieve a 100 per cent survival rate. Thus, the model accounts for survival rates ranging from 40 per cent to 100 per cent.

Additionally, through transplanting portions of the harvested tissues over several procedures, the research indicates that menopause can be delayed even longer. For example, the team’s model shows that returning a third of the outer portion of the ovary over each of three procedures delayed menopause longer than returning all of the tissue through one surgery.

Based on the model, Oktay predicts that for most women under 40, ovarian cryopreservation can significantly delay menopause. And for women under 30, the procedure may be able to prevent menopause altogether.

Because many women lose their ability to become pregnant sooner than they desire, ovarian cryopreservation could be an appealing option for them, said Hugh S. Taylor, professor and chair of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine.

“Women are also frequently deferring pregnancy until later in life for professional or social reasons,” Taylor added. “The ability to freeze and later transplant ovarian tissue offers a way to extend their fertile lifespan.”

Does delaying menopause via cryopreservation offer health benefits?

Delaying menopause with ovarian cryopreservation may confer certain health benefits associated with a later menopausal age.

Based on new research by Oktay and his colleagues, around 11 per cent of women experience late-onset natural menopause or menopause after age 55.

Studies show that women who experience menopause later may live longer and have a lower risk for a range of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, retinal disease, depression and bone loss. However, uncertainty remains over whether later menopause actually reduces those health risks.

Oktay hypothesises that those risks also may be mitigated in healthy women who delay menopause via ovarian tissue cryopreservation.

If risk for such chronic diseases is reduced in healthy women who undergo this procedure, it could be a significant benefit. However, Taylor said that “additional research is needed to determine long-term benefits as well as risks.”

In ongoing research, Oktay and his team are studying the outcomes of healthy women who have opted to delay menopause through this procedure.

Publication of these studies is far in the future, but in the meantime, the researcher said the mathematical model offers a starting point for considering the feasibility and possible benefits of forestalling menopause in healthy women.

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The vital role of AI skills in women’s career advancement and practical steps to begin

By: Chaitra Vedullapalli, Co-Founder & President of Women in Cloud

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With the unparalleled level of noise, confusion, and fear surrounding AI it can become overwhelming to parse out what news is sensationalised and what is true, especially when it comes to AI and the impact it has on the jobs market. 

Contrary to what some fear-mongering articles have shared, according to the 2024 Work Trend Index from Microsoft and LinkedIn, tech leaders are worried about whether or not they will be able to fill key roles. 

Over the past eight years companies have hired up to 323 per cent of technical AI talent.

Now they’re turning their sights to non-technical talent with AI aptitude. This means they’re actively seeking new team members with the skills to use generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Copilot. 

As the founder of an organisation committed to generating $1B in new economic access for women and allies in tech by 2030, I can see a huge opportunity for diverse women and allies in tech to land new roles and as a result speed up the closure of the representation and gender gap.

How?

By actively preparing, pursuing and learning new skill sets and earning the credentials to prove it. 

To get ahead of this anticipated hiring wave, here are three reasons to pursue certifications and credentials for real-world skill sets that address critical business problems right now:

  1. Career Advancement in an AI-centric Economy: By gaining relevant project-based, you will enhance your confidence and increase your trust level with current managers as well as hiring managers. In an AI-driven economy, possessing AI skills becomes imperative for career progression. Investing time in developing these skill sets now ensures you are well-positioned to seize opportunities and contribute meaningfully to any organisation’s growth.
  2. Future-proofing Skillsets for AI Opportunities: Investing in AI skills today equips you with future-proof capabilities essential for navigating the evolving job market. By seizing AI opportunities now, individuals ensure they stay ahead of the curve and remain adaptable and competitive in an AI-driven environment.
  3. Accelerated Skill Development and Enhanced Professional Profile: Pursuing scenario-focused credentials enables individuals to achieve credentials faster, accelerating their skill development journey. By showcasing project-based proficiency, individuals will differentiate themselves and demonstrate their ability to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations. 

Rather than staying stuck in fear of how AI may change the jobs landscape, women everywhere need to reframe this shift as an invitation to enter tech for the first time or scale to a new role they’ve been aiming for. 

It’s no secret that the entry barrier for diverse and underrepresented communities in tech is often much greater than not.

However, one of the most overlooked and underutilised ways to mitigate this is obtaining certifications and verifiable credentials for skillsets companies will have as requirements when hiring for new roles. 

A great place to start your journey is with the #WICxSkillsReadyChallenge.

This initiative leverages Microsoft Applied Skills, offering a new verifiable credential that validates specific real-world skill sets that address critical business problems.

This new skill set can be earned through interactive lab-based assessments on the Microsoft Learn platform in weeks.

During this challenge participants will earn Microsoft Applied Skills credentials in AI in just weeks, have the opportunity to win exciting prizes every month, receive exclusive invitations for spotlights, speak at events, network with recruiters, and connect and become a part of the record-setting WIC community.

We encourage all genders to apply, with priority given to women across all global markets and historically underrepresented populations.

I invite you to apply here today, it’s valued at $4500 and it is 100 per cent free.

The change I’ve witnessed from women taking advantage of opportunities like this is drastic.

Two journeys particularly stand out to me, those of Shammah Saratu Yaro and Caleb Yeboah have been inspiring and transformative.

The scholarships have helped them attain certifications, and access free vouchers enabling them to take exams and land new DevSecOps roles, accelerating their career growth and leadership opportunities. 

You can begin your journey today.

Setting aside a few weeks to continue or begin your personal and professional development with applicable skills in the tech industry is a lifelong practice that will keep you ahead of the curve, for AI and beyond.

Chaitra Vedullapalli Bio:

Chaitra Vedullapalli is the award-winning Co-Founder and CMO of Meylah and Co-Founder and President of Women In Cloud.

In her 26 years in tech, Chaitra has driven billion-dollar expansions for both Microsoft and Oracle, has been recognised with the Forbes 1000 Next Entrepreneur title, Microsoft Women’s Leadership Award, set a new Guinness World Record, and is listed as one of 100 Most Innovative MarTech Leaders by World Marketing Congress.

Presenting before the UN, at TedX, Grace Hopper Celebration, and Microsoft Inspire, she is a purpose-driven, strategic, high-growth thought leader who seamlessly bridges business and technology to help companies globally scale and drive digital economic development. 

Her mission is to generate $1B in new net economic access for women entrepreneurs and professionals by 2030 through global partnerships with corporations, community leaders, and policymakers.

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Taking charge of your well-being: A guide to pelvic health

By Gloria Kolb, Co-founder & CEO – Elitone

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Pelvic health is a vital yet often overlooked aspect of overall well-being. It encompasses the proper functioning of the muscles, ligaments, and tissues that support the pelvic organs and plays a critical role in daily activities and quality of life. 

Despite its importance, pelvic health remains shrouded in silence and stigma.

Many people hesitate to discuss issues like incontinence, pelvic pain, sexual health concerns, and pelvic organ prolapse due to societal taboos and misconceptions.

This reluctance to talk openly can lead to prolonged suffering and a diminished sense of well-being.

By shedding light on the various aspects of pelvic health, we aim to break the taboo, educate on everyday issues, and empower individuals to take proactive steps in managing their pelvic health.

Understanding the significance of pelvic health and addressing problems early can lead to a more vibrant, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Understanding pelvic health

Pelvic health refers to the optimal functioning of the pelvic floor, which forms a supportive base for the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum.

These muscles play a crucial role in urinary and faecal continence, sexual function, and support during physical activities.

The pelvic floor acts like a hammock, providing stability and support to the pelvic organs.

When these muscles are strong and functioning correctly, they help maintain proper organ positioning and function.

However, various factors such as aging, childbirth, surgery, obesity, and chronic straining can weaken or damage the pelvic floor muscles, leading to a range of health issues.

The importance of pelvic health

Neglecting pelvic health can lead to various complications, from mild discomfort to severe disruptions in daily activities.

For instance, incontinence can result in social embarrassment and a reluctance to engage in physical activities, while chronic pelvic pain can interfere with work, exercise, and personal relationships.

Sexual health issues related to pelvic floor dysfunction can affect intimacy and emotional connection with partners.

The long-term consequences of ignoring pelvic health can be profound, leading to chronic pain, mental health struggles, and decreased independence.

Early intervention and proactive management of pelvic health are essential for preventing these outcomes and promoting overall well-being.

Recognising the importance of pelvic health empowers individuals to seek appropriate care and take steps to maintain or restore their pelvic floor function, ultimately enhancing their quality of life.

Common pelvic health issues

Understanding the common issues that affect pelvic health is crucial for recognising symptoms early and seeking appropriate care. Some of the most prevalent pelvic health problems include:

  • Incontinence: This refers to the involuntary leakage of urine or faeces. Different types include stress, urge, overflow, and functional incontinence. Causes range from weakened pelvic floor muscles to nerve damage and underlying health conditions.
  • Pelvic pain: This discomfort in the lower abdomen and pelvic region can be brought on by chronic conditions like endometriosis and interstitial cystitis. Acute issues such as infections or injuries can cause persistent pain, impacting daily activities and emotional well-being.
  • Sexual health concerns: These include dyspareunia (painful intercourse), decreased libido, and erectile dysfunction. Causes can be hormonal, muscular, or psychological. Addressing these concerns is vital for maintaining intimacy and relationship satisfaction.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse: This occurs when the pelvic organs descend and fall out of place, with common causes including childbirth, aging, and obesity. Symptoms range from heaviness in the pelvic area and discomfort sitting down to urinary and bowel dysfunction. Early intervention is essential for managing symptoms.

Understanding and addressing these common pelvic health issues is vital for improving quality of life and overall well-being.

Awareness, open communication, and timely medical intervention can help manage these conditions effectively, empowering individuals to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Diagnosis and treatment options

Pelvic health issues are typically diagnosed through routine pelvic examinations, which assess the position and support of pelvic organs and can identify problems such as prolapse and muscle weakness.

Imaging tests, including ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans, provide detailed images of the pelvic area, helping to diagnose structural problems and guide treatment plans.

Additionally, questionnaires and symptom checklists assist healthcare providers in understanding the severity and impact of symptoms on daily life, aiding in accurate diagnosis.

Treatment options for pelvic health issues fall into two main categories: conservative measures and medical interventions.

Conservative measures often serve as the first line of defence.

Lifestyle modifications, such as diet changes, bladder training, weight management, and avoiding heavy lifting, can alleviate symptoms.

Pelvic floor physical therapy, involving exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, can improve function and reduce symptoms.

Non-surgical devices, like pessaries and stimulation, can help manage prolapse and incontinence without the need for surgery. 

When conservative measures are insufficient, medical interventions may be necessary to help manage pain, inflammation, and symptoms of incontinence or prolapse.

Minimally invasive procedures such as injections or medication may offer relief for various pelvic health issues.

In severe cases, surgical options like pelvic floor reconstruction and sling procedures for incontinence or prolapse may be required.

It is crucial to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of surgery with a healthcare provider. 

Treatment should be tailored to each person’s specific condition, symptoms, lifestyle, and preferences.

However, it is key to note that more medical interventions may not be more productive than conservative ones.

Holistic approaches to pelvic health

Adopting holistic approaches to pelvic health can significantly enhance overall well-being by addressing physical, mental, and emotional aspects.

Regular exercise, particularly pelvic floor exercises like Kegels, strengthens these muscles, while whole-body activities such as yoga and Pilates improve core strength and flexibility to support pelvic health.

Specific yoga poses like Bridge Pose and Goddess Pose target the pelvic floor, while mindfulness practices reduce stress.

Nutrition is also vital. A fibre-rich diet prevents constipation, which reduces pelvic strain, while hydration helps maintain urinary health, and anti-inflammatory foods help manage pelvic pain.

Protein can help build the needed pelvic muscles.

Alternative adjunct therapies, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, and biofeedback, can complement traditional treatments in alleviating pain, improving muscle function, and enhancing overall pelvic health.

Integrating these holistic methods fosters a balanced approach to maintaining and improving pelvic health, leading to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Breaking the taboo and empowering yourself

Breaking the taboo surrounding pelvic health is essential for empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being.

Societal stigma often discourages open discussions about pelvic health issues, leaving many people feeling isolated and ashamed of their experiences.

By normalizing conversations about pelvic health, individuals can overcome this stigma and access the support and resources they need.

Empowering oneself to take charge of pelvic health begins with education and awareness.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of pelvic health issues allows individuals to recognise when they need help and seek appropriate care.

Open communication with healthcare providers is crucial for discussing concerns and developing personalised treatment plans.

Additionally, joining support groups or seeking guidance from mental health professionals can provide valuable emotional support and validation.

By embracing a proactive approach to pelvic health and advocating for their own well-being, individuals can reclaim control over their bodies and lives.

By fostering a culture of openness and support, we can break down barriers and ensure everyone feels empowered to prioritise their pelvic health and live their lives to the fullest.

Gloria Kolb is the CEO and co-founder of Elitone, an FDA-cleared, non-invasive wearable treatment for women with urinary incontinence. Elitone has won “Best New Product” by My Face My Body awards, Sling Shot 2020, and numerous startup pitch awards.

As an inventor with 30  patents, Gloria’s accolades include being featured in Forbes as a Top Scientist Driving Innovation in Women’s Health.

Her creative designs and problem-solving abilities have earned her recognition, such as Boston’s “40 Under 40” Award and MIT Review’s “World’s Top Innovators under 35”.

With Mechanical Engineering degrees from MIT and Stanford and an Entrepreneurship MBA from Babson College, Gloria’s expertise extends to consulting, where she evaluates technology and clinical markets for various inventions and startups.

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ProgenyHealth expands partnership to improve maternal health

The partnership aims to “personalise” maternity and NICU care management through a whole-person approach

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Ellen Stang, ProgenyHealth founder and executive chairwoman and Susan Torroella, ProgenyHealth CEO

The healthcare company ProgenyHealth has expanded its partnership with the women’s health solutions company Wildflower Health to improve maternal health outcomes.

The collaboration aims to break down “existing silos” and help health plans move faster to improve maternal and infant health outcomes.

ProgenyHealth is on a mission to transform NICU care management driving towards better outcomes and lower total costs for babies that experience a NICU stay.

The company’s maternity programme covers the time period from conception and pregnancy to postpartum and parenting with special expertise in managing premature and complex births and resulting NICU admissions.

By extending its reach to prenatal care management several years ago, ProgenyHealth says it was able to both improve maternal health and target NICU prevention.

The company turned to Wildflower Health to advance its mission.

“We have been working with Wildflower Health over these past few years  to provide integrated solutions to moms throughout their entire pregnancy journey,” said Susan Torroella, CEO at ProgenyHealth.

“While digital tools and consumer apps are not new to the world of healthcare, we are taking a uniquely cooperative approach to member-facing technology that positively affects enrollment, engagement, and health plan member impact.

“In a time when it is important for health plans to continually differentiate their work and value, our ongoing collaboration with Wildflower does just that. Together, we believe it is our responsibility to provide the best technology solutions along with the most compassionate human connection.”

The partnership, Torroella said, seeks to “personalise” maternity and NICU care management through a whole-person approach.

Leah Sparks, founder and CEO, Wildflower, said: “Wildflower’s overall solutions comprehensively address access, cost, outcomes and experience throughout women’s health.

“Our strategic partnership with ProgenyHealth seamlessly helps health plans fill gaps, collapse silos and integrate into existing clinical and operational workflows.

“When it comes to maternal health, early identification coupled with timely member engagement drives momentum and improves care. Our goal is to always support the whole person by helping address the clinical and social determinants of health (SDOH) needs of members and their families.”

The healthcare challenges facing women in the US, particularly when it comes to giving birth, are growing. While maternal mortality rates have more than doubled since 2000, a majority of these deaths are preventable.

To improve in this regard, ProgenyHealth believes the industry must strive to remove “artificial barriers” to care and move faster and engage members, while providing support and resources to ensure a healthier pregnancy.

“Once health plans have identified pregnant members, it is critical that they maintain consistent engagement to avoid missed interventions and opportunities,” Torroella explained.

“As more than 60 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, it is important that new mums are aware of all recommended prenatal and postpartum care options available to them.

“This is a huge first step in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity.”

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