Scientists in New York say they’ve developed a drug that can prevent menopause from ever happening

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Campaigners have long called for a wider range of treatments for women experiencing the grueling symptoms of the menopause — hot flashes, brain fog and debilitating fatigue. 

While replacing the lost sex hormones with hormone replacement therapy is effective for some, it doesn’t curb all the symptoms.

But what if you could delay — or even prevent — the hormonal change from happening altogether?

A team of New York scientists say this astounding reality is possible, and are working to make an ‘anti-menopause shot’ available to all US women.

The injection, which could be delivered once every few months, mimics the action of a hormone called anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), which is involved in ovulation and begins to drop when a woman turns 25.

When women hit menopausal age, usually between 45 and 55, they experience a sharp decline in reproductive hormones needed for pregnancy, including estrogen, progesterone and AMH.

But the researchers, from biotech firm Oviva Theraputics, suggest that injecting women with AMH every few months could artificially raise levels of the hormone and delay the shift — perhaps indefinitely.

The scientists did not comment on the risks from the shot, but HRT for estrogen has been shown to raise the risk of breast and endometrial cancer.

Dr Daisy Robinton, a molecular biologist at Oviva Therapeutics behind the development, told DailyMail.com: ‘This drug couldn’t just delay the menopause, it could actually prevent it.’ 

The drug is still in animal trials and is many years from being made available. It is currently being tested for safety in animals (stock image)

The above graph, from a study published in 2014, shows average levels of the hormone AMH in women compared to their age. It reveals the hormone rises until the age of 25 years and then starts to drop, with menopause hitting at about 52 years old on average. Scientists believe that artificially raising these levels can halt the menopause

The above graph, from a study published in 2014, shows average levels of the hormone AMH in women compared to their age. It reveals the hormone rises until the age of 25 years and then starts to drop, with menopause hitting at about 52 years old on average. Scientists believe that artificially raising these levels can halt the menopause

Studies already show women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or enlarged ovaries — who have AMH levels two to three-fold higher than normal — enter menopause about two years later than those without the condition.

AMH is produced in the ovaries by follicles and gradually declines over time as the ovaries deteriorate with age.

The organs rapid decline is thought to be linked to the gradual decrease in the number of follicles, which contain developing eggs, that they contain.

Dr Daisy Robinton, a molecular biologist at Oviva Therapeutics, revealed the drug at the Livelong Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida

Dr Daisy Robinton, a molecular biologist at Oviva Therapeutics, revealed the drug at the Livelong Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida

Every cycle, a woman loses around 1,000 follicles — either via ovulation which has more than 20 recruited each time to release an egg or through the natural death of cells.

But scientists have found that when a woman has higher levels of AMH this loss can be slowed because higher levels of the hormone reduce the number of follicles recruited every cycle.

The drug is currently being tested in mice to show it is safe to use, with results expected in the next few months.

If successful, it could move to trials in humans within the next few years.

Menopause is a biological change that all women go through. It usually begins at some point in the late 40s and early 50s — when the ovaries stop releasing eggs for fertilization, and periods stop.

This is caused by the drop in estrogen and progesterone. AMH also declines significantly.

AMH levels are already tested to predict when a woman might go through the menopause and to diagnose PCOS.

But it is not clear whether drops in AMH — which is produced in the ovaries — are just a correlation with the menopause or actually cause the change.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says menopause is caused by the loss of ovarian function, as well as drops in estrogen levels.

Women going through the menopause are already offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to raise the levels of estrogen and progesterone, but this does not delay the dysfunction of the ovaries — it treats the symptoms by boosting hormone levels. 

HRT prescriptions for menopausal women have soared over the past few years, with 11million items handed out to help deal with symptoms in 2022/23

HRT prescriptions for menopausal women have soared over the past few years, with 11million items handed out to help deal with symptoms in 2022/23 

Currently, women are offered treatments to help them with the menopause, such as HRT (pictured)

Currently, women are offered treatments to help them with the menopause, such as HRT (pictured)

Dr Robinton presented her discovery to a packed conference room at the Livelong Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, attended by more than a thousand doctors and members of the public, including DailyMail.com.

She told the audience: ‘The ovaries age 2.5 times faster than the rest of the body and from the age of 35 to 50, they go through a rapid decline.

‘At the age of 52, the menopause onset happens, with the loss of the ovaries causing the rest of the body to start to decline.

‘AMH hormone controls the amount of lag time until the menopause and actually acts as a brake in females.

‘We could use AMH to slow the loss of ovarian reserve [number of eggs in the ovaries] and extend the runway to the menopause.’

By lag time, Dr Robinton was referring to the amount of time a woman has before the menopause.

Researchers are not sure at this stage how much the treatment will cost, but because of the high sums involved with research, prices could easily run into six figures initially.

It comes in spite of a major report calling for menopause to stop being pharmacologically treated and viewed more as part of the natural process of aging.

The team of researchers wrote in the Lancet that a new approach was needed based on ‘health empowerment’ — where women are given the knowledge, confidence and self-determination to self-manage their health.

‘Although management of symptoms is important,’ the team wrote, ‘a medicalized view of menopause can be disempowering for women, leading to over-treatment and overlooking potential positive effects, such as better mental health with age and freedom from menstruation, menstrual disorders and contraception.’

The menopause treatments market is currently valued at $16.9billion — but is expected to grow by a major five percent every year up to 2030 where it will reach as much as $24.4billion.

Others are also working on technology to delay the menopause including scientists at Columbia University, who are testing whether rapamycin — a compound from soil bacteria on Easter island famed for claimed anti-aging properties — could delay ovary aging and, by extension, the menopause.

The trial includes 50 healthy women aged between 38 and 45 years who have regular menstrual periods but are not interested in conceiving. They are taking either weekly doses of rapamycin or a placebo.

Rapamycin is believed to help inhibit the decline of chromosomes, which has been linked to aging in cells.

Dr Zev Williams, the chief of reproductive endocrinology at Columbia University who is running the study, said: ‘A lot of us think that menopause is a given and it’s just a part of life.

‘The truth is, across the entire animal kingdom, menopause is by far the very, very rare exception.’

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