October 28, 2010
Reproduction Expert: Freeze Your Ovary When Young

That loud ticking clock of an aging reproductive tract in women can be muffled by freezing an ovary at age 19 to reimplant to make babies after age 40.

Dr Sherman Silber told the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in Denver a woman could freeze her ovary at 19 to use when she was 40.

Dr Silber, who says the procedure would work better than egg freezing, did the first full ovary transplant in 2007.

Any doctors reading this: Will removing just one ovary place a heavier pressure on the other ovary? Will menopause come sooner with less total ovary mass present to keep up the monthly cycle? Also, once the frozen ovary is reimplanted will menopause come later?

Don't wait till your desperate 30s to take steps to ensure you can still start a successful pregnancy.

He said of his present clients: "These women all come to us aged 35 or 38 after they've broken up with their boyfriend of 10 years and they are worried about the future." Women should think about it earlier when they have more, better quality eggs.

Doctor Silber says with an ovary safely frozen women could take a more relaxed view of their eventual motherhood.

My guess is few women will take Dr. Silber's advice. But on the bright side: A 19 year old today will turn 40 around the year 2031. Organ growth biotechnologies might be sufficiently advanced to grow replacement ovaries by then. Sound far fetched? Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine leads a team which is the first to implant laboratory-grown organs (bladders) into humans. Check out Atala's TED talk on regenerative medicine and the future of laboratory-grown organs.

Growth of replacement ovaries offers a number of advantages over freezing ovaries. First off, you do not need to undergo surgery when young to remove an ovary. Second, aging organs are at increasing risk of cancer. The accumulation of mutations that lead to cancers occur over decades. Replacing your ovaries (or pancreas or liver or kidneys) at age 40 would set back the age of the organs to a much earlier, less mutated, and therefore less risky stage.

To grow replacement organs that have a much lower chance of becoming cancerous requires excellent genetic testing to identify starter cell lines that do not have any mutations that boost cancer risk. Note that genetic testing is not just about your genetic inheritance or family tree (though it is great for that). Genetic testing is also a key component of strategies for regenerative medicine.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 October 28 10:16 PM  Biotech Reproduction


Comments
mr said at October 29, 2010 6:23 AM:

Love the site, but a 19 year old today does not turn 30 around 2041.

jaytee said at October 29, 2010 1:51 PM:

Lol at the math.

Brett Bellmore said at October 29, 2010 3:17 PM:

How many 19 year olds have the money to freeze an ovary? Which is much more expensive, after all, than simple sperm donation... Not entirely devoid of medical hazards, either, being rather invasive surgery.

I suppose you could finance it by selling some of the eggs.

If I were a 19 year old, and I went into debt to freeze an ovary, I expect I'd be really pissed off 20 years from now when my friends who didn't got a few hundred cells from a cheek swab sequenced, error corrected, and the needed eggs manufactured in a lab. Cheaper than my original ovary freezing, even ignoring discount rates.

Randall Parker said at October 29, 2010 5:31 PM:

mr, jaytee,

I was actually intending to say 40, not 30 and 2031, not 2041. Got the 3 and 4 backward.

Brett Bellmore,

Good point. Girls from upper class families could afford it. But most can't.

kurt9 said at October 30, 2010 2:59 PM:

The gametes, sperm and ova, can be made from stem cells which, in turn, can be made from regular cells in your body at any age.

See: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2010/jun2010_Immortal-Stem-Cells-for-Anti-Aging-Therapies_01.htm

So even egg harvesting while young is no longer necessary.

Dat_Truth_Hurts said at October 31, 2010 11:44 AM:

How about we stop fooling ourselves selling young women the "you can have it all" dream. Putting off children to get some worthless degree in environmental studies to work at starbucks and have sex with an endless string of socially acceptable thugs instead until the biological clock becomes deafening is a tragic path to spinsterhood. Visit any dating site for proof.

Women should be strongly informed that delaying motherhood until you have that "awesome" career and "perfect" man is a fool's errand.

OldRedJoe said at October 31, 2010 11:59 AM:

Hey- how many of these IVF patients only eat organic food, or are vegans, or stay up night worrying about 'unnatural' stuff in the environment but still participate in the Frankenstein pregnancy program?

NATURE designed us to reproduce while relatively young; why the denial?

Hucbald said at October 31, 2010 12:26 PM:

This seems like a tacit admission that our society is suffering from an unhealthy psychopathy to me. How about being honest with women, and telling them they have the best chance of becoming mothers in their twenties, instead of deluding them into believing they can have kids pretty much whenever they want?

Diggs said at October 31, 2010 12:42 PM:

Why not transplant the removed/frozen ovary at 60? 70? 80? There's no reason to think that a woman in her 60's can't run around with a rambunctious two-year-old with the same energy that a 20 year old can.
Isn't it time for society to recognize that there might be a detriment to CHILDREN born to increasingly older parents?

Dana said at October 31, 2010 1:47 PM:

I'm an OB/GYN and the biggest advantage I see here is that freezing an ovary would greatly reduce the rate of high-level genetic testing and abortion for Down's syndrome and other maternal age-related genetic disorders. Babies found to have those illnesses now are usually aborted. A 19 year-old has a very, very low chance of having a child with Down's syndrome, while a 45 year-old who is lucky enough to conceive has a risk of 1 in 32.

As to your question, Mr. Parker, woman won't go through menopause early, either- many women have one ovary removed for various reasons and do fine. It's the age of the ovary, not how many eggs there are that determine menopause and fertility, since there are vastly more eggs present in even part of an ovary than most women will ever need. However, a 40 y.o. woman with a transplanted 19 y.o. ovary will get the ultimate in natural hormone therapy for menopause- she won't even HAVE menopause for another thirty years! While that might be an advantage for overall well-being and reducing osteoporosis, there would probably be an increase in the risk of breast cancer for such women. Personally, I think the benefits would outweigh the risks, but that would have to be studied in detail.

Also, from a practical standpoint, it's easy to remove an ovary through a belly-button type incision with a laparoscope. I'd be more concerned about the cost of freezing the ovary for twenty years.

meep said at October 31, 2010 3:55 PM:

Other advice: have kids before you're 30.

Having kids for the first time when you're over 40 is kind of crazy. You're over your youth peak, no matter your fertility situation. You're losing muscle mass. Your bones are not doing so hot. 20s is the best time, physically for a woman, to be having babies.

So don't waste your 20s with good-time boys.

NickC said at November 1, 2010 1:52 AM:

It's a shame to see so many haters in the comments. I don't know if freezing an ovary is a good idea or not, but I think we should keep a few things in mind:

-Life Expectancy: historically, people died young (40 or so), so now we face new challenges to make the most of a life expectancy that has almost doubled. Extending the window of possible reproduction for females is a great thing, even if that means some people will choose to reproduce later--others will reproduce who would have not done so at all.

-40 is not that old if people take care of themselves properly. The statistics are skewed by lazy, obese people who eat garbage and never exercise. If a woman eats healthy and challenges herself with intense anaerobic activity, she can have a great chance of successful reproduction at 40, without needing to freeze an ovary.

-Having "old parents" is so much better than never being born at all! Yes, young parents might be able to more easily keep up physically, but that doesn't mean that middle aged people are unfit to be parents.

It is fine to try and persuade people to reproduce earlier, but we should be happy for those who do so later as well. We should encourage those who are working hard to improve the quality of life for us all with technological progress--some will fail, but some will bring outstanding success.

stranger said at November 2, 2010 8:49 AM:

Why not eat a low carb diet and forgo ovulation for years on end? Fashion models starve themselves out of having periods.

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