Research With Worms May Shed Light on Women's Fertility

Egg cells aged earlier than body cells in roundworms, study found

TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Different molecular mechanisms may regulate the aging of the human body and the aging of the reproductive system, new research with worms suggests.

The findings may help explain why a woman's fertility begins to decline after age 35 but other cells in her body don't show major signs of aging until decades later, study author Coleen Murphy of Princeton University said in a news release from the American Society for Cell Biology.

Murphy and her colleagues studied the roundworms, called C. elegans, to compare the types of genes that affect lifespan and the types that keep immature egg cells (oocytes) healthy.

The findings were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology, in Denver.

The researchers found that both body aging and reproductive aging in C. elegans involve the insulin regulation pathway, but there are marked differences in the molecular mechanisms that maintain youthful oocyte function and those that affect body ("somatic") aging.

"It seems that maintaining protein and cell quality is the most important component of somatic longevity in worms, while chromosomal/DNA integrity and cell cycle control are the most critical factors for oocyte health," Murphy said in a society news release.

She added that finding ways to delay oocyte aging could reduce older women's risk of giving birth to a child with birth defects.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about infertility at WomensHealth.gov.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: American Society for Cell Biology, news release, Dec. 6, 2011

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