Vienna, Austria: For the first time, scientists have been able to identify genetic factors that influence the age at which natural menopause occurs in women. Ms Lisette Stolk, a researcher from Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, told the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics today ( Monday 25 May) that a greater understanding of the factors influencing age at menopause might eventually help to improve the clinical treatment of infertile women.
Ms Stolk and her team performed a Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) in 10,339 menopausal women. The data analysed were taken from 9 different studies undertaken in The Netherlands (the Rotterdam Study 1 and 2), the UK (the TwinsUK study), USA (the Framingham study, the Cardiovascular Health Study, the ARIC study, the HAPI Heart Study), Iceland (AGES-Reykjavik) and Italy (the InCHIANTI study). The scientists found 20 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in four different places on chromosomes 19 and 20. SNPs are common genetic variants that influence how humans look, behave, develop disease or react to pathogens. In genetics they are used to compare regions of the genome between different groups of individuals and to identify those regions that are associated with a particular disease or characteristic. The SNPs the researchers found had not been identified before, and the part of the body where they might have an effect has yet to be identified, though the researchers speculate that this is likely to be in the ovaries or brain.
"We found that the 20 SNPs were all related to a slightly earlier menopause", said Ms Stolk, "and women who had one of them experienced menopause nearly a year earlier than others. We know that ten years before menopause women are much less fertile, and five years before many are infertile. In Western countries, where women tend to have children later in life and closer to menopause, age at menopause can be an important factor in
|Contact: Mary Rice|
European Society of Human Genetics