Gene that controls egg development in worms can someday be included in food additives to help women prolong fertility.
- Team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem analyzed the DNA of roundworms
- Gene ogr-2 controls egg maturation in animals and can be & # 39; disabled & # 39;
- Equivalent gene can help women maintain their eggs until they are ready for use
A gene that controls egg development in worms may one day help women to increase fertility, scientists said.
A team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem analyzed the DNA of roundworms. Just like humans, the animals contain 20,000 genes.
Tests showed that the ogr-2 gene controls the maturation of eggs in the worms. They delve deeper and discovered a switch, MAPK, which switches the development of eggs on and off.
When ogr-2 was removed via gene editing technology, MAPK & # 39; overdrive & # 39 ;, the worms & # 39; immediately & # 39; become less fertile.
A gene that controls egg development in worms can help women postpone infertility (stock)
Although the early days, scientists hope that an equivalent gene in humans may one day be included in food additives to help women maintain their eggs until they are ready for use.
Infertility affects about one in six women in the UK, statistics show.
And in the US, one in ten struggles to become or stay pregnant, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
HOW DOES CRISPR DNA PROCESSING WORK?
The CRISPR gene processing technique is increasingly used in health research because it can change the building blocks of the body.
At a basic level, CRISPR works as a process for cutting and pasting DNA.
Called technically CRISPR-Cas9, the process involves sending new DNA strands and enzymes to organisms to process their genes.
In humans, genes act as blueprints for many processes and traits in the body – they dictate everything from the color of your eyes and hair to whether or not you have cancer.
The components of CRISPR-Cas9 – the DNA sequence and the enzymes needed to implant it – are often sent into the body via a harmless virus, so scientists can determine where they are going.
Cas9 enzymes can then cut DNA strands, effectively disable a gene, or remove portions of DNA that need to be replaced by the CRISPR's. These are new parts that are submitted to change the gene and the effect of which is preprogrammed to produce.
But the process is controversial because it can be used to change babies & # 39; s in the womb – initially to treat diseases – but can lead to an increase in & # 39; designer baby & # 39; s & # 39; because doctors offer ways to change the DNA of embryos.
Source: Broad institute
A girl's eggs start to mature after her first menstrual period, which is usually between 10 and 15 years old. Over time, these eggs age and lose their quality.
Aging eggs is one of the major causes of birth defects, miscarriages and infertility, the researchers wrote in the journal Genetics.
This is despite the fact that more and more women choose to postpone motherhood and continue their career.
To uncover the mechanisms behind egg aging, the researchers looked at the roundworm species Caenorhabditis elegans.
The eggs of female worms not only contain the same number of genes as humans, but also mature in about a day, making them easy to study.
After identifying ogr-2 and MAPK, the scientists removed the gene via the gene editing tool CRISPR.
& # 39; We tested the role of the gene by removing it from the gene sequence of the worm & # 39 ;, said study author Dr. Yonatan Tzur.
& # 39; Immediately, these & # 39; processed & # 39; worms are less fertile and their eggs look more like those of an older worm. & # 39;
The researchers hope for a day & # 39; gently & # 39; increase the equivalent of ogr-2 in girls via additives. The scientists said in a press release that tthis allows girls to maintain the high quality of young eggs until they are ready to use them.
Suppressing MAPK during IVF can also help older eggs to complete their development.
This could improve the chances of an older woman having a healthy baby, the team wrote.
IVF allows doctors to select a woman's healthiest eggs, but those older than 35 still have a & # 39; more difficult time & # 39; to become pregnant.
For women older than 42 years, & # 39; those chances are almost zero & # 39 ;, the researchers wrote.
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