Have you read Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’? Don’t worry, this has not turned into a book review but the premise of that book was about a future society where, because of dangerously low reproduction rates, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. It is of course a novel and was seen when it was first published in 1985 to be on the far reaches of science fiction but this is no longer the case.
Surrogate mothers are an established fact but advances in science have meant that ovarian transplants – although not that common, or wholly successful – can now be offered to women with the laudable aim of preserving a woman’s fertility, after cancer treatment for instance, or of extending her reproductive life-span.
It also means that women who have ovarian tissue frozen at young ages, perhaps because they are about to embark on cancer treatment, can have their young ovarian tissue transplanted back when they are older which is certainly a benefit.
However, a new piece of research from Japan which is looking to extend the reproductive benefits is suggesting that an ovarian transplant will not only increase fertility, but will also extend life-span and effectively rejuvenate the recipient. As a society we chase quite desperately after the elixir of youth and methods that will hold back ageing and the biological clock, but surely there are limits?
Dr Noriko Kagawa, Associate Director for Research at the Kato Ladies’ Clinic in Tokyo, told the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome that successful ovarian transplants increased the life-span of the mice by more than 40%. And I don’t think it is too far-fetched for certain people to see this as a potentially lucrative anti-ageing program in some form or other.
That may seem far-fetched, but then so did surrogate mothers back in 1985 when there was no idea that the practice would become as widespread as it has. Could this be another step down that road?