A strategy that has been shown to reduce age-related health problems in several animal studies may also combat a major cause of age-associated infertility and birth defects. Investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have shown that restricting the caloric intake of adult female mice prevents a spectrum of abnormalities, such as extra or missing copies of chromosomes, that arise more frequently in egg cells of aging female mammals. Their report appears in this week's online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
"We found that we could completely prevent, in a mouse model, essentially every aspect of the declining egg quality typical of older females," says Jonathan Tilly, PhD, director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology in the MGH Vincent Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who led the study. "We also identified a gene that can be manipulated to reproduce the effects of dietary caloric restriction and improve egg quality in aging animals fed a normal diet, which gives us clues that we may be able to alter this highly regulated process with compounds now being developed to mimic the effects of caloric restriction."
Many studies have found that animals whose food intake is restricted but still sufficient to avoid malnutrition live longer and show fewer signs of aging than do animals given access to as much food as they want. The long-term effects of a caloric restriction (CR) diet in humans are being investigated in ongoing studies, but some health improvements, including reductions in cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular risk factors, have already been reported. An earlier study by Tilly's group found that female mice maintained on a CR diet during most of their adulthood maintained their fertility into very advanced ages, even after being allowed to resume free feeding.
A key step in the development of reproductive cells sperm and eggs is a proc
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Massachusetts General Hospital