Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Genetic Department have discovered the switch that may do this.
AGEING | FEMININITY
Worms may hold key to extending fertility
What if women could press pause on their biological clocks?
Human eggs begin to mature from the onset of a woman’s first period. However, most Western 13-year-olds are not interested in having babies and while they wait, their eggs age and the quality decreases. What if there were a way to delay egg ageing without losing egg quality?
Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI)’s Genetic Department have discovered the switch that may do this – in worms.
And they are hopeful this breakthrough may help women extend their fertility windows and maintain high egg quality into their 30s and 40s.
Dr. Yonatan Tzur and associate Dr. Hanna Achache, along with scientists at Harvard Medical School, studied egg maturation in roundworms and published their findings in the scientific journal Genetics.
Though tiny, C. elegans has been incredibly helpful in helping scientists understand human genetics. These worms contain the same number of genes as humans do (20,000) and their eggs mature in about one day.
Tzur and his team monitored the changes in each of the worm’s 20,000 genes during egg formation and were able to pinpoint an exact gene (ogr-2) that controls the rhythm of egg maturation.
Delving further, the team studied MAP Kinase (“MAPK”), the biochemical switch that turns egg development on and off.
When they removed the ogr-2 gene with CRISPR gene-editing technology, MAPK went into overdrive and the worms’ eggs aged very quickly.
“We tested the gene’s role by removing it from the worm’s gene sequence. Instantly, these ‘edited’ worms became less fertile and their eggs more closely resembled those of an older worm,” shared Tzur.
These findings are significant because ageing egg cells is the main cause of birth defects, miscarriages, and infertility.
As human eggs age, abnormalities develop. While in-vitro fertilization (IVF) allows doctors to select the best eggs, women above the age of 35 have a harder time to produce a healthy baby with their own eggs, and for women 42 and older, those chances are close to zero.
These statistics, along with the fact that the average age of first-time mothers in the Western world is increasing sharply, means finding the key to slowing down egg maturation is crucial and has spurred scientists like Tzur to discover the mechanisms that control ovarian development and oocyte aging.
Though still in its early stages, Tzur sees two possible applications of his discovery for us, humans.
One is to gently increase the equivalent of ogr-2 in girls via a food additive. This may allow girls to maintain the high quality of young eggs until they are ready to use them.
Another would be to suppress MAPK during IVF cycles. This would help older eggs complete their development and improve women's chances of having a healthy baby as they get older.
(Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Even men have that biological clock
By Anne Kirya
You are born, you grow up, get married and have your own children. That is the usual trajectory of life, at least the way it is expected to be.
However, for some men, marriage sometimes happens without their full consent. Being married and "tied down" as many would call it, is dreaded by many a man.
The wedding band is like a noose around a man's neck. As such, some men will do everything to postpone marriage until the last possible minute.
A 40-year-old unmarried man's back is often accompanied by sarcastic looks and remarks. Society is not ready to accept that being single can be a man's choice.
You must truly be a difficult man to live with if no woman is willing to marry you.
My aunt once commented about a good-looking young man who had a good job but no one ever saw or even heard about a girl by his side. She concluded that there was a curse preventing him from getting married and the cleansing rituals were too weird to speak about in public.
In some work places, married men are considered first for promotion. They are deemed to be more responsible.
It has also been proven that men tend to be more developmental when they have a female partner. Depending on the kind of woman you choose, she will give you that push to succeed and do better.
Whether consciously or otherwise, you will feel a need to move out of your parents' house, buy this and that and build a house for your new family.
Jones once spoke of his high school teacher whom every boy admired. He was 36 and came to teach in creased clothes, unkempt hair and would ask the boys for a brush to comb it. He was cool. He would call the boys to push his car when it got stuck.
Later, they heard that he was getting married.
Right before their eyes, he began to wear some new, pressed clothes and even came to class with a handkerchief, something that had never happened. A few months after the wedding, a new car replaced the old one. If these reasons are not enough to convince you to get married earlier, then perhaps you should turn to the medical perspective.
Remember that female biological clock? Well it has been proved that men have one too. Sperm count may lower with age. As men grow older, the quality of children they have starts to depreciate.
Yes, you will still be able to have children at 60, but your kids are more prone to disorders like autism and schizophrenia. And this was said of men only in their late 40s! So if you will not get married early for yourself, then do it for your children.
And remember, behind every successful man there is a woman.
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