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Egg flaws in older women clue found

3rd September 2010

A team from Newcastle University says it has made a breakthrough in identifying why older women are more likely to produce abnormal eggs.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, scientists say they have identified a fall in levels of proteins called cohesins and that their discovery may now help develop ways to prevent cohesin loss.

While it has been known for some time that pregnancy problems in older women can be linked to eggs containing the wrong number of chromosomes, it has not been clear until now just why this occurred.

The study was lead by Dr Mary Herbert of the Centre for Life at Newcastle University.

She said: "Reproductive fitness in women declines dramatically from the mid-thirties onwards. Our findings point to cohesin being a major culprit in this."

For their findings, the researchers looked at eggs from young and old mice and found that cohesin levels declined with age.

“Cohesin levels were very much reduced in eggs from older mice and the chromosomes underwent a very messy division resulting in the wrong number of chromosomes being retained in the egg,” said Dr Herbert.

The next step is to look at human egg development to establish why cohesion is lost with age.

Adam Balen, professor of reproductive medicine and surgery at the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine, said that while the study was scientifically very interesting it was too early to say if the finding would have any bearing on clinical care for older women with fertility problems.

 

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