Women can now delay the menopause by up to 20 years thanks to a new medical procedure launched by the same scientist who developed IVF.
Doctors claim the operation could benefit thousands of women who experience serious health problems that are brought on by the menopause, including heart conditions and osteoporosis.
Specialists also believe the same procedure could help improve the lives of millions more women by delaying the onset of more common symptoms of the menopause, which range from hot flushes and memory problems to anxiety and a reduced sex drive.
The procedure, which costs between £7,000 and £11,000, is being offered to women up to the age of 40 through ProFam (Protecting Fertility and Menopause), a company founded by four world-renowned experts in reproductive medicine, including Simon Fishel, an IVF doctor and president of the UK Care Fertility Group.
“This has the potential to be of significant benefit to any woman who may want to delay the menopause for any reason, or those women who would have taken HRT, and there are lots of benefits around that,” Fishel told the Guardian.
So far, nine women have had the procedure which tricks their biological clocks into thinking they are younger than they are.
The 30-minute operation involves keyhole surgery to remove a small piece of ovarian tissue, which is then sliced up and frozen to preserve it.
When a woman enters the menopause the frozen tissue is then thawed out and grafted back into the body.
One of the firstpatients, a 34-year-old married mother-of-one who said she wanted to avoid having to take HRT in the future, told The Sunday Times: “I have to say I've never felt any pain, and it seems quite miraculous that it's something so straightforward.”
Fishel points out that how much the new procedure will delay the menopause depends on the age when the tissue is taken and when it is put back.
For example, he suggests that tissue taken from a 25-year-old might postpone the menopause for 20 years, while tissue taken from a 40-year-old could delay its onset for five years.
The specialist adds while many will benefit from hormone replacement therapy, it may not suit everyone.
In response to the news, the British Menopause Society (BMS) said that more research needs to be done to assess the safety of the technique.
Haitham Hamoda, chairman of the BMS said: "This report explores a potentially promising concept for women at risk of medically or surgically induced menopause.
"However, when it comes to considering this in the context of delaying the menopause, further evaluation is needed to assess the safety of this technique, its effectiveness and the length of time such re-implanted tissue continues to function.
"Such assessment should also include a benefit/risk analysis particularly when applied in otherwise healthy women.”
The news follows recent research which found that exposure to air from traffic-clogged streets could leave women with fewer years to have children.
In June, researchers from the University of Modena published the findings of a study which examined the effects of exhaust fumes and soot on fertility.
It found that women living in the most polluted areas were three times more likely to show signs they were running low on eggs than those who lived in cleaner surroundings.
Hector O. Chapa, MD, FACOGPeer