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Fertility Study on Mice Eggs Raises Hope for Older Mothers
Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding why older women become less fertile, suffer a miscarriage or have a baby with Down's syndrome.
The discovery could ultimately lead to treatments that would increase the chances of a successful pregnancy for growing numbers of would-be mothers in their late 30s and early 40s.
Researchers led by Dr Mary Herbert, an expert in reproductive biology at Newcastle University's Institute for Ageing and Health, have identified why some older women produce abnormal eggs, according to findings published in the journal Current Biology.
It has been known for a long time that would-be mothers who are nearing the end of their fertility are at higher risk than usual of having eggs that are affected by chromosomal abnormalities, but the underlying cause has been unclear.
The new study has identified problems arising from a woman's declining stock of proteins called Cohesins, which act as binding agents to hold chromosomes together by keeping them inside a ring. They are vital to ensure that chromosomes split evenly when cells divide.
Women's supplies of Cohesins fall as they age, Herbert and her colleagues discovered. Tests on eggs taken from both young and old mice indicated that the amount of Cohesins in women's bodies declines after their mid-30s.