New medical breakthrough could mean women can put off having babies till even later

Scientists have pinpointed the gene that keeps women 'female'; this could lead to a drug that holds off the menopause

British and German scientists have discovered that a single gene is responsible for keeping ovaries the way they are.

When the gene is ‘switched off’, the ovary starts to make the male sex hormone testosterone.

A better understanding of the way the ovary develops could help shed light on the condition of early menopause, which affects thousands of British women.

It could also, in the future, lead to a drug which puts the ovaries on ‘pause’, thereby delaying menopause and preserving a woman’s stock of eggs until she is ready to have a family. 

This could be good news for women who are prepared to wait until they are even older before having children, although there are obvious implications around health and ageing.  

Josephine Quintavalle, of campaign group Comment on

Reproductive Ethics,
welcomed the potential for new treatments for

early menopause, but described the possibility of a pill that delays menopause – and motherhood – as ‘frightening’.

She said, ‘If you arrest the menopause, you are not necessarily arresting the other ageing aspects of the body, so you are giving a young reproductive capacity to an old body.

‘The issues are about life expectancy and appropriateness. The understanding of science is important. It is the application of science that worries us.’

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