A new medical procedure that claims to "delay" the menopause for up to 20 years has been launched in the UK.
The procedure is being offered privately by Birmingham-based company ProFaM and has already been taken up by 10 women aged between 22 and 36, The Sunday Times reports. At present, it costs between £7,000 and £11,000.
The procedure involves having a small piece of ovarian tissue removed using a keyhole surgery. The tissue is then frozen at -150C to preserve it until the woman reaches menopause age, at which point it's grafted back into her body, boosting her natural hormones and halting the menopause.
As well as potentially prolonging a woman's period of fertility, the procedure could delay the common side effects of menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, a loss of sex drive, memory and concentration problems, sleeping difficulties and anxiety.
Women also tend to lose some of their bone density after going through the menopause, which can in later life lead to osteoporosis.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51. However, around 1 in 100 women experience a premature menopause before they reach the age of 40.
Professor Simon Fishel, co-founder of ProFaM, and a renowned IVF pioneer, told The Sunday Times: "Women are living longer than at any time in human history. It's quite likely that many women will be in the menopause for longer than their fertile period. We are empowering women to take control of their own health by naturally delaying their menopause."
Professor Fishel also said that undergoing the procedure "could delay menopause for five, 10, or 20 years" depending on the age at which a woman has her ovarian tissue frozen.
However, news of the procedure has also been greeted with some scepticism, partly because doctors already use a similar technique to protect the fertility of young women before they undergo cancer treatment.
Richard Anderson, deputy director of the Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh University, told The Observer that it was “old news” that ovarian tissue transplants could restore hormone levels, but added: “What is less clear is whether this is a safe and effective way of doing so.”