The Straits Times
Published on Sep 22, 2012

Mice experiment may point to new ways to protect female fertility


HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Egg cells can repair themselves from damage caused by radiation far better than doctors ever thought, a finding researchers say gives fresh hope in protecting women undergoing cancer therapy from infertility.

Although the experiments have only been in mice, researchers believe they have relevance for female cancer patients and women who suffer premature menopause, a condition that puts them at risk of early infertility, osteoporosis and heart disease.

In a paper to be published in the Nov 9 issue of the journal Molecular Cell, scientists in Australia found that egg cells, or oocytes, are killed not by radiation, but by two proteins - puma and noxa - which snap into action when they detect deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage to egg cells.

In experiments using mice that did not carry these proteins, the scientists found that their eggs survived radiation and they went on to produce normal offspring.