How long can menopause be delayed?

At birth, ovaries in girls can contain about a million tiny structures called primordial follicles, each of which contains an egg cell. As girls grow and experience adulthood, most of these follicles will die while only one follicle will survive each month to ovulate a mature egg.

^Sean Lawley. ^^Banner photo above: “The 28 Day Cycle," a temporary art installation of a three-dimensional bar graph of the ebb and flow of menstruation by biology/art/pre-med student Danielle Okelberry, debuted at the U's Aline Skaggs Biology building in 2022.

When the loss of primordial follicles is nearly complete, and only hundreds remain, women experience menopause, a time when menstrual cycles have ceased for 12 months.New research, which relies on a mathematical model developed by a University of Utah mathematician, indicates that it is possible to delay the onset of menopause, perhaps indefinitely, by implanting a woman’s own previously harvested ovarian tissue back into her body. This technique has been successfully used to restore fertility in cancer patients, according to Sean Lawley, associate professor of mathematics and co-author of a study published Friday in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, or AJOG.

This interdisciplinary work is a collaboration between Lawley, Joshua Johnson, an ovarian biologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Jay Emerson, professor of statistics and data science at Yale University; and Kutluk Oktay, a prominent physician, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and ovarian biologist at Yale School of Medicine. In the late 1990s, Oktay developed ways to harvest ovarian tissue from young cancer patients, freeze it (“cryopreserve” it), and then transplant it after she has undergone cancer treatments that would have left her menopausal and infertile. This the technique is referred to as “ovarian tissue cryopreservation and transplantation.”

The technique has enabled hundreds of cancer survivors to conceive and have children. It is substantially different from the common procedure of freezing eggs, which is effective in helping older women conceive through in vitro fertilization, but has no impact on menopause.


Read the entire article by Brian Maffly in @TheU.

Read more about the art installation featured above here.