Professor Roger Gosden, the scientist seeking to find methods for restoring female fertility in cancer survivors, must be getting very used to allegations that he is out to change the face of human reproduction. His work in ovarian tissue transplants has been in and out of the media over the past few years. And when, in September 1999, he seemed to be seeing some success with ovarian tissue transplants, he was given the dubious accolade of 'reversing the menopause'.
Gosden's latest research, in whole ovary banking and transplanting, has attracted similar excitement in the media - and similar consternation from his critics. Will this change human reproduction for ever? Will women soon move over to having children in their fifties or sixties, having spent their younger years making their mark on the world?
One thing is for sure: ovary banking for social reasons is a long way off. Professor Gosden's research has only been carried out rats so far and has yet to be repeated. He predicts that it will be two or three years before trials in humans can be carried out. The results of those trials will take some time to emerge, largely because a women recovering from cancer may need or want to wait some time before the ovary is transplanted back to her body. It is only after this treatment has proved successful in women who need it for medical reasons that it is likely to be offered to women for social reasons.
Then, some years down the line, ovary banking for social reasons may take off. But it is likely that only a small proportion will want to have children after the menopause and will be prepared to undergo surgery to make it possible. Perhaps, by then, our attitudes towards postmenopausal mothers will have become rather more positive than they are now.