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Mouse Study Finds New Way to Protect Female Fertility
a blog by Claire, September 24, 2012
A study of mice by Australian researchers offers hope to women with premature menopause or whose fertility has been compromised by cancer treatment. Current options for fertility preservation include egg freezing, embryo freezing and transplanting ovarian tissues.
The researchers found that two proteins — PUMA and NOXA — cause the death of egg cells in the ovaries. Blocking the activity of these proteins could lead to new ways to protect women's fertility.
The study, which was published in Molecular Cell, looked at egg cells (primordial follicle oocytes) that provide each woman's lifetime supply of eggs. The research found that when egg cell DNA is damaged following exposure to radiation or chemotherapy, PUMA and NOXA proteins trigger the death of the damaged eggs, leading to infertility. When these egg-producing cells were missing the PUMA protein, they did not die after being exposed to radiation therapy.
The scientists found that not only did cells with out PUMA survive being irradiated, they were able to repair the DNA damage and could be ovulated, fertilized and produce healthy offspring. And when the cells were also missing the NOXA protein, there was even better protection against radiation.
The researchers hope that treatments could be developed to block the function of PUMA and prevent egg cell death in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. In addition, there may be implications for delaying menopause, the timing of which is influenced by how many egg cells a woman has. Treatments that slow the loss of egg cells from the ovaries could delay premature menopause and prolong female fertility.
To learn more about fertility preservation prior to cancer treatment, read: