In Part One of our Series, we explored the history of this incredible medical advancement and how its disproving decades-old theories of a woman’s finite egg supply and its ability to regenerate itself. Ovarian Rejuvenation is still in its relative infancy stage but already offering hope to millions of women who suffer from Premature Ovarian Failure, low AMH, high FSH, poor egg quality, etc. which, up to now, were difficult to treat and incurable. Want to find out more and what actual treatments are occurring now? Join me as we highlight the doctors and clinics undertaking this experimental treatment.
LATEST TREATMENTS AND CLINICAL TRIALS BEING OFFERED IN THE U.S.
In Part One, I mentioned the ongoing controversy many countries faced when Stem cells were first considered for the treatment of various illnesses, not just for Infertility. The fact that stem cells have the ability to adapt and “mimic” the cells in which they are introduced, thereby creating new, healthier versions of these cells, was seen as the next great miracle cure to a number of diseases. The controversy stemmed from the fact of the origin of these stem cells and from where they were extracted. Most studies were taking stem cells from discarded embryos or embryonic tissue causing a wave of concern among many in the medical community and the population as a whole.
However, a lot has changed since then. The newest studies and treatments are now able to use stem cells from the patient’s own body and tissue thereby eliminating the use of embryos altogether. This latest development is causing quite a stir in the field of Infertility and, even though its in its early stages, many studies and treatments are popping up not only in the U.S., but in the world.
Let’s highlight each clinic undergoing this experimental treatment/study and the particulars associated with each program.
Let’s start here in the U.S. and with Dr. Hugh Melnick:
- Advanced Fertility Services in New York. Led by its Founder and Director, Dr. Hugh Melnick, a Specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility the clinic has been helping infertile couples since 1983. Recently, Dr. Melnick and his colleagues have started a clinical study of their own based on the Stem Cell research I highlighted in Part One to see the effects of Ovarian Rejuvenation treatments applied to their own patients. Dr. Melnick bases his treatment not only on the previously cited clinical findings I mentioned in Part One but also he cites a case study in which a post-menopausal woman (aged 49) conceived and gave birth to a healthy baby using her own eggs. Yes, you read it correctly. A post-menopausal woman who hadn’t had a period in 4 years. Dr. Melnick states that the woman had received stem cell treatment using PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) taken from her own blood and then injected into her ovary. Thereby “kickstarting” her ovaries back into production (much like the mice study I mentioned in Part One).
Amazing findings, for sure, but still lots of unanswered questions exist. What are PRP’s? Are they safe? What does this mean to the average woman with poor ovarian reserve and low AMH? What about Pre and post-menopausal women…can they really be helped? Let’s explore further…
How does Ovarian Rejuvenation actually occur?
To answer this question, why not allow Dr. Melnick to describe it himself (as taken from his very own site)…:
“The scientific basis of this case report of successful ovarian rejuvenation is most likely that the patients’ blood cells, which were injected into her ovaries, produced substances called Growth Factors, which the body normally produces in order to heal both internal and external injuries. Among many other important biological and immunological functions, Growth Factors cause the growth of new blood vessels, connective and nerve tissues by the activation of Stem Cells that are normally found in all parts of the human body. Stem Cells can, under the proper biological stimulus, morph into any type of cell in the human body, including eggs. The presence of Stem Cells in the ovaries and their transformation into mature oocytes (egg cells) has been demonstrated in mice by Harvard researchers. Stem Cells have also been shown to be present in the human ovary, so it is quite possible that they can be transformed into eggs by Growth Factors contained in the individuals’ own white blood cells and platelets which have been injected into the ovary. Injections of Growth Factors, when used for many other types of medical treatments, are made from a patient’s own blood and blood cells and is called PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) or PDGF (Platelet Derived Growth Factors) Therapy.”
What are growth factors, how do they work and are they safe?
“Growth Factors are produced naturally by certain blood cells (platelets and white blood cells) when the body is injured, in order to naturally repair the body’s tissues. Remember in your childhood, “skinning” your knee and seeing a thick yellow substance form over the injured area? That was actually a combination of platelets, white blood cells, blood clotting and growth factors that stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and eventually cause the formation of new skin, blood vessels, connective tissues and nerves to replace those which were lost as a result of the injury. PRP injections have been used clinically for many years by physicians for the treatment of soft and connective tissue injuries, as well as in bone grafts. Many professional athletes use this therapy to accelerate the healing of their sports related injuries. PRP’s are also used in burn patients to help skin grafts take and after cardiac surgery to help the chest wall incisions heal. The current clinical use of PRPs is very wide–from treatment of leg ulcers to non- surgical facelifts. Of course there are research studies that both confirm and deny the efficacy of PRP therapy in its many and varied medical uses. One thing about PRP therapy that has not been challenged is its safety. Since it is made from a person’s own blood, there can be no transmission of blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis or HIV, as has been reported with use of products made from the blood of other individuals. Moreover, since there are no synthetic chemicals involved and PRP therapy is made from the patients’ own blood products; the possibility of an allergic reaction is extremely unlikely.”
Given the magnitude of what the research has discovered and what this can actually mean for the millions of us suffering with Infertility, you’d think it would be a) quite invasive and b) quite costly. Well, given how much those of us “hard to treat” cases have actually had to spend throughout our journey…this new treatment’s details may surprise you in a good way.
First things first, what are the requirements for this clinical study and do you meet them?
Again, taken from AFS’s site:
“Any woman who is in good physical health and falls into one or more of the four patient categories that will be studied will be evaluated for admission to this study.
1. Menopausal or perimenopausal women under the age of 50 years.
2. Infertile women, over the age of 35 years, having low egg reserve and low AntiMullerian Hormone levels.
3. Women under the age of 35 years, who have low egg reserve and low AntiMullerian Hormone levels
4. Women with premature ovarian failure (POF). If you feel that you are a potential candidate and wish to be treated, please fill out the application form that is included in downloads, sign the consent form and return it to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
If you feel that you meet one or more of these requirements, you can contact Dr. Melnick via his website and schedule your call.
What does an Ovarian Rejuvenation treatment entail and what are the costs associated with it?
After having personally spoken with Dr. Melnick’s staff, here’s what a typical Ovarian Rejuvenation treatment at their clinic consists of:
- An initial personal consultation via Skype with Dr. Melnick himself where he discusses your medical history, the details of the Ovarian Rejuvenation program and what this all can mean for you. The cost for this initial phone consultation- $350.00.
- Should you decide to pursue this treatment further, you then must have your blood work performed so he can evaluate your current levels of Day 2,3,or 4’s, your FSH, LH and Estradiol levels as well as an AntiMullerian Hormone level (AMH). If you don’t live near his New York City clinic, let them know and they’ll send an order for your blood to be drawn at your local Quest Laboratory and have the results sent to them online.
- Once you have filled out all applicable forms, have had your initial call with Dr. Melnick and performed your blood work, then his staff will schedule your in-house appointment at the clinic. Please note, for women who no longer have current menstrual cycles, the appointment can be scheduled at any time. For others who still have periods (either regular or irregular), the appointment would best be scheduled very early during your cycle or even during your menstruation. Let his staff advise you further…
- So what to expect at your in-house consultation? Firstly, a vaginal sonogram will be performed. This is to ensure that your ovaries are in a favorable location for the ovarian injection procedure and to also determine the state of your current ovarian reserve. It will also show any possible conditions, i.e. ovarian cysts, etc. which may hinder the procedure.
- What follows? Again, taken from AFS:
“Your white blood cells and platelets are separated from the red blood cells and serum by a procedure called centrifugation. The preparation of your PRP takes less than one hour. The next part of the ovarian rejuvenation process is the injection of the PRP into the ovaries. The major difference in our study and the technique described in the referenced case study is that we use a non-surgical approach to the ovarian injections. In the referenced case report, the authors used a surgical procedure, Laparoscopy, to visualize the ovaries directly and inject the cells under direct visualization. Laparoscopy, being a surgical procedure, involves a small incision, requires general anesthesia and longer operating and recovery time. The technique that we have developed to inject the cells into the ovaries is a nonsurgical, transvaginal ultrasound- guided injection performed under sedation with an anesthetic agent called Propofol. This is basically the same as the procedure that is used for an egg retrieval in the In Vitro Fertilization. In our experience, our approach is less invasive, safer, and has a shorter, more comfortable recovery. We have performed thousands of IVF egg retrieval procedures in the last 25 years, which, in our experience, has a well-established safety record, with an extremely low complication rate.”
After the Treatment
In theory and with the findings of what the continued research has shown, the rejuvenation process will begin to occur within 3-6 months. It takes some time for the body to create new oocytes, for blood levels to show changes and to see how much and if the treatment was successful. Regular blood draws to test your AMH (antiMullerian hormone), FSH, LH and Estradiol levels will be required to see the progress. If you live in the vicinity, then they will be performed at the clinic. Otherwise, the same would apply as when prior to the treatment with draws occurring at your local Quest Facility.
Any findings must be reported back to Dr. Melnick’s office along with any spontaneous pregnancies, menstrual cycles (for those who currently have none), and changes to menstrual cycles of women who still have periods.
Keep in mind, that if this process actually does what it says it should do but no pregnancy occurs, other factors can also be at play here. Male sperm issues, blocked Fallopian tubes, and/or other hindrances can also be keeping you from conceiving. Further testing would definitely be required. Perhaps an IVF would further your chances of a successful pregnancy having (finally!) a good ovarian reserve from which to choose high quality eggs, in a larger number. That and other questions are best answered by Dr. Melnick or the RE of your choosing.
What are the Costs associated with Treatment?
- Initial Skype call with Dr. Melnick- $350.00. If insured, don’t forget to ask if perhaps your insurance may cover this cost. His office has insurance advisers on hand to help you should you need additional assistance.
- Blood draws vary in cost by laboratory if self-paying, but if you are fortunate to have insurance coverage for Infertility then they should be a covered benefit. Definitely check out our Insider’s Guide to covering IVF and treatments costs for valuable information that should help you.
- The vaginal sonogram I mentioned previously costs $350.00. Dr. Melnick’s office is in-network with many insurance carriers, so check to see if he’s under your plan as well.
- The Ovarian Rejuvenation itself costs $3,500, which also covers the Anesthesiologist’s fee.
- Total- $ 4,200. Less than the cost of an IVF…
Before I take any steps, what are the findings and does this actually work?
This research has been conducted by other studies and other experts in the field, completely unrelated to Dr. Melnick and his current study. So, the findings are there and show great promise, trust me on that fact. (If you missed the information on the studies, read about them here). Furthermore, I will be highlighting other studies and clinics undergoing Ovarian Rejuvenation in my soon to-be-published posts, so stay tuned…
However, in regards to this particular study/treatment….during all of the time I’ve spent conducting my in-depth research, I have found no stated clinical findings thus far posted by Dr. Melnick or his clinic. By no means am I saying that there are none, I’m merely stating a fact that I haven’t found any. My advice- *This should be one of the first questions you ask should you decide to schedule a Skype call with Dr. Melnick.*
Perhaps the treatments are too new and not enough time has been allotted for successful pregnancies to occur? I merely don’t know…only he would be the best person to answer that for you.
**BTW-I will be inquiring with Dr. Melnick soon about interviewing him for Achieve Concieve’s readers. Keep checking back! Sign up to receive un update with my latest posts straight to your Inbox.**