By Amanda Brown | Examiner
Experiments only conducted on mice, show that egg cells can repair themselves from damage caused by radiation, researchers say this gives fresh hope in protecting women undergoing cancer therapy from infertility.
Researchers believe they have found a way for female cancer patients and women who suffer premature menopause, a condition putting them at risk for infertility, osteoporosis and heart disease.
A paper soon to be published on November 9th issue of the journal Molecular Cell, scientists in Australia found that egg cells, are killed not by radiation but by two proteins, puma and noxa, which snap into action when they detect DNA damage to egg cells.
In experiments using mice that did not carry these proteins, scientists found that their eggs actually survived radiation and they went on to conceive healthy offspring. Between 50 to 80 percent of eggs survived in these mice.
This is very exciting, it means if you get rid of those two proteins that kill the oocytes or specialized egg cells can actually repair their DNA and that has never been known before.Those were enough to result in normal fertility in those mice and they could produce normal pups. Those pups went on to be fertile themselves and lived a normal lifespan with no evidence of tumors or other abnormalities.
Said lead author Clare Scott, an associate professor and oncologist at The Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospitals. Clare’s colleagues are conducting similar trials on human egg cells to see if the two proteins work in the same way. If this works, they hope that a drug can be designed to block those two proteins from killing egg cells, resulting in preserving women’s fertility from radiation treatments.
If that pans out well, then we would hope that a drug that could target (the protein) puma … be provided as a therapy for three to six months during cancer therapy. In a woman, premature menopause is caused by (early) death of specialized egg cells. And if you can get specialized egg cells to survive, then premature menopause won’t occur
Scott said.Such a drug that blocks the action of the proteins could possibly prevent premature menopause or infertility.