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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Egg's energy stores key to preserving fertility

An immature egg's internal nutrient supply is critical to its survival, an insight that offers a new route to understanding and treating infertility due to egg death, according to Duke University Medical Center researchers.

As women age, their stockpile of immature eggs, called oocytes, diminishes through cell death, eventually leading to infertility. In studies with frog oocytes, the Duke researchers found that the nutrient storehouse, or yolk, plays a key role in regulating the survival of these cells. Depleting the nutrients triggers apoptosis - programmed cell death - and adding nutrients prolongs the life of eggs, they found. The study offers potential for developing oocyte-protective therapies for women undergoing chemotherapy, as well as potential targets for improved infertility treatments, the researchers said.

"This discovery provides a basic science underpinning for understanding the mechanisms of oocyte death and a way to identify potential clinical treatments," said Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D., senior study author and an associate professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center.

Read more: Egg's energy stores key to preserving fertility


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