(Boston)-- An international team of researchers from the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and other institutions has uncovered 13 genetic loci, linked to immune function and DNA repair, that are factors in the age of onset of menopause.
Menopause -- the cessation of reproductive function of the ovaries -- is a major hormonal change that affects most women when they are in their early 50s. Most prior studies of the age of onset of menopause have focused on genes from the estrogen-production pathway or vascular components.
In the new study, published online Jan. 22 in Nature Genetics, a research team led by Kathryn Lunetta, professor of biostatistics at the BU School of Public Health, and Joanne Murabito, associate professor of medicine at the BU School of Medicine, identified 13 novel loci associated with menopause onset, while confirming four previously established loci. Most of the 17 loci are associated with genes related to DNA damage repair or auto-immune disease; others are linked to hormonal regulation.
"Our findings demonstrate the role of genes which regulate DNA repair and immune function, as well as genes affecting neuroendocrine pathways of ovarian function in regulating age at menopause, indicating the process of aging is involved in both somatic and germ line aging" the authors said.
Lunetta said the new findings "bring us closer to understanding the genetic basis for the timing of menopause. They may also provide clues to the genetic basis of early onset or premature menopause and reduced fertility.
"We hope that as a better understanding of the biologic effects of these menopause-related variants are uncovered, we will gain new insights into the connections between menopause and cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and other traits related to aging, and that this will provide avenues for prevention and treatment of these conditions," she said.
|Contact: Lisa Chedekel|
Boston University Medical Center