Older women who desire to conceive are often stigmatized with comments regarding their “ticking biological clocks.” Younger women who are uncertain about their pregnancy desires feel social pressure to decide the fate of their uteri immediately — lest they enter menopause. But what if our “biological clocks” are a lot more flexible than we’ve been led to believe?
For as long as modern science has discussed female reproductive organs, menstruating women were thought to be born with a set number of eggs. Their ovaries would never produce new eggs, and once they hit middle age, the number of eggs would dwindle away until they were completely gone — cue menopause.
Professor Evelyn Telfer led the research at Unversity of Edinburgh, and her original goal was to understand why a chemotherapy drug called ABVD does not produce the fertility issues in women that most chemo drugs typically do. After studying the ovarian biopsies of young women, researchers found that those who had taken ABVD were producing a much more significant number of eggs than healthy women of the same age.
Telfer points to one thing — those women are actually producing new eggs because of the medicine:
Researchers are very quick to emphasize that this does not mean women should start immediately taking doses of ABVD to combat fertility issues — but it does mean that ABVD must be studied further so they can better understand how the drug — or a drug with similar properties — may help women who want to get pregnant. Perhaps, most of all, it proves that there is a lot we don’t know about ovaries and their capabilities to renew themselves.
Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm spoke to The Guardian about the potential future of fertility treatments — especially for older women — thanks to this development:
We always knew ovaries were incredible!