Premature ovarian failure, also known as primary ovarian insufficiency is a disease that affects females. This condition occurs when the woman’s ovaries stop functioning normally before she hits the age of forty. Although, a lot of women do present with decreased fertility when they’re nearing the age of 40 years old. This situation is worse for women affected by premature ovarian failure. This reduced infertility starts way before they turn the age of 40. In severe cases, this medical condition even starts in the teenage years of the affected women. This disease is sometimes referred to as premature menopause, however, the two are not the same. On one hand, women with premature ovarian failure may have an irregular or infrequent menstrual period for a long time and still become pregnant, but on the other hand, women affected by premature menopause do not menstruate, and equally can’t become pregnant. Some of the signs and symptoms of this disease include amenorrhea, which is a condition in which women present an infrequent menstrual period. This occurs in women affected by this disease, especially after a pregnancy, or after getting off birth control medications. Other signs and symptoms of this disease include hot flashes, dryness of the vagina, reduced libido, night sweat, and hot flashes. The exact cause of this disease is not known yet, however, studies have shown that some factors contribute to the development of this disease. Some of these factors include genetics, environmental factors such as toxins, smoke, insecticide, autoimmunity and so on. Stem cells and exosomes are a potential way of treating this disease. Stem cells are cells that can proliferate and form new cells. They are capable of developing into any kind of specialized cells. They also can regenerate, repair and regulate the immune system. These stem cells can be used for the treatment of premature ovarian failure, especially the one caused by autoimmune disease.
What Are The Causes Of Premature Ovarian Failure?
The pituitary gland releases some specific hormones during menstruation, in women with healthy functioning ovaries. This leads to the release of a small number of eggs that contain follicles to start maturing. Out of the eggs released, only about one or two follicles will reach maturity monthly. The follicles mature, opens, then releases the eggs. These eggs would be fertilized if there are sperms present in the fallopian tube. Premature ovarian failure might occur because of the following reasons;
- Genetics: There are some genetic disorders that have a link to premature ovarian failure. An example of this is Turner’s syndrome. This is a genetic condition in which the woman has only one normal X chromosome, while the other X chromosome is abnormal. Another example of a genetic disease that can lead to premature ovarian failure is Fragile X syndrome. This is a condition in which the X chromosome is fragile and can beak.
- Radiations: Women who are regularly exposed to a huge dose of radiations, have more chances of developing the premature ovarian failure. According to studies, it has noted that radiation therapy is one of the most common causes of acquired premature ovarian failure. This occurs mostly in women who have undergone radiation therapy, maybe for the treatment of some cancer diseases, or the elimination of a tumor. Radiations have a toxic effect on the genetic makeup, and can successfully induce the premature ovarian failure.
- Chemotherapy: Drugs are also capable of causing this medical condition. There are some drugs whose side effect could lead to the premature ovarian failure. The drugs responsible for this disease include medications for treating and eliminating cancer and tumors. This is common in cancer patients, who had to undergo a high-intensity use of drugs, consistently. Other causes of this medical condition are toxins such as chemicals, insecticide, smokes produced from a cigarette.
- Autoimmune disease: This is a condition in which the body immune system fails to recognize the ovary as part of the body tissue. In this case, the body immune system attacks the ovaries, damaging it, and impairing its functions. The immune system release antibodies to attack and damage the tissues of the ovary, and the oocytes inside it. The reason behind this isn’t known yet.
- Idiopathic cases: There are cases whereby a woman has the premature ovarian failure, but has no chromosomal abnormalities, nor undergone any form of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and did not expose herself to toxins as well. In this kind of condition, the doctor must go ahead to perform further evaluations.
- Infection: There are some diseases that could cause premature ovarian failure, as a complication. An example of this disease is the tuberculosis of the reproductive tract.
- Other causes of this disease are enzyme deficiencies, gonadotrophin therapy that is used for a long time
What Are The Risk Factors Of Premature Ovarian Failure?
There are some factors that increase the risk of developing premature ovarian failure. Below are some of the factors;
- Age: This is one of the most important factors in premature ovarian follicle. Women between the ages of 35 to 40 have a higher risk of developing the disease. However, women below this age group can also develop this disease.
- Family history: People with a family history of premature ovarian failure have more likelihood of developing this disease.
- Previous surgeries: Women that have undergone some sort of surgery have more risks of developing this disease.
How Can Stem Cell Therapy Be Used To Treat Premature Ovarian Failure?
Stem cells are cells that can proliferate and form new cells. They are capable of developing into any kind of specialized cells. They also can regenerate, repair and regulate the immune system. These stem cells can be used for the treatment of premature ovarian failure, especially the one caused by autoimmune disease. These cells, when introduced into the body, can regulate and protect the ovaries from being attacked by the immune system. The stem cells would “teach” the immune cells how not to attack the ovaries. In addition, research is ongoing on how stem cells can be made to replace and restore the function of the damaged ovaries.
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Simpson, J. (2009). Ovarian Dysgenesis and Premature Ovarian Failure Caused by X Chromosomal Abnormalities. The Global Library of Women’s Medicine.
Zangmo, R., Singh, N., and Sharma, J. (2016). Diminished ovarian reserve and premature ovarian failure: A review. IVF Lite, 3(2), p.46.