Can Biotech Help Women Delay Menopause?
For centuries women have accepted their fate with menstruation—no one really knows when a woman’s periods start or when that same woman will develop menopause. Perimenopause, when hormonal changes and familiar symptoms begin, is often the first sign a woman is approaching menopause, which is defined as a calendar year without a period. And while menopause occurs at about age 50, it can start as early as your 30s or as late as your 70s.
Do we have to accept fate when it comes to menopause?
More women are having babies later in life
For the past four decades, pregnancies in women over age 35 have risen steadily—we are getting married later, too. However, the later women wait to start a family, the more at risk they are that hormonal changes will cause fertility issues.
Health risks associated with pregnancies in older women include having multiple births due to hormone changes and a decreased chance of getting pregnant naturally due to the number and quality of the eggs a woman is producing at that age.
A way to delay menopause and extend a woman’s reproductive window could make a huge difference for those older women who discover fertility issues once they are ready to start a family.
Why menopause doesn’t just affect the reproductive system
Ovaries are a complex part of a woman's body. While they are responsible for producing the eggs needed in reproduction, ovaries have other functions, too.
The endocrine system uses hormones to control different issues in our bodies, including metabolism, reproduction, energy levels, growth and many other features. These hormones are created in different glands and organs, including the ovaries in women and testes in men. While testosterone produced in the testes gradually decreases as men age, women have a sharp drop-off in the production of estrogen by the ovaries following menopause (often known as the "fertility cliff"). This has a major effect on fertility and women’s endocrine systems, resulting in a variety of increased health risks we associate with women post-menopause, including osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimer's.
A potential solution to delay menopause
Delaying menopause could have significant health benefits to women apart from their fertility.
Celmatix, a biotech company, is working on a drug program that would separate the reproductive and endocrine functions of the ovaries. Chemotherapy or necessary hysterectomy often results in early menopause.
Celmatix’s lead program is focused on protecting the ovary from CIOF, or chemotherapy-induced ovarian failure, and could be life-changing. Celmatix is also looking at options for women with endometriosis and PCOS.
Ovarian health is a fundamental but misunderstood part of women’s health care, and more funding and knowledge in this area has the potential to create benefits for women in all stages of life.