A study out of Australia has uncovered the role DNA repair plays in preserving egg quality, offering hope for women whose eggs may be damaged through treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.
The study found that when the cell death pathway is inhibited in oocytes (eggs) these eggs are capable of repairing severe DNA damage sufficiently to produce healthy offspring.
By exposing female mice deficient in TAp63, a key regulator of cell death in eggs, to various doses of gamma irradiation, it was observed that the oocytes will rapidly repair the DNA damage to maintain oocyte quality and female fertility.
“Women are born with their lifetime supply of eggs, which makes them one of the longest living cells in the human body. This means that eggs are exposed to years of external and internal stressors that may damage the DNA and contribute to the reduced oocyte quality in women over 35 years of age. We have identified the DNA repair pathway that oocytes use … and confirmed that repair is efficient and accurate to prevent mutations in offspring generated from these eggs,” said researcher Karla Hutt.
With survival rates for many common cancers now exceeding 80 per cent, and an estimated population of 14 million female cancer survivors world-wide, there is a clear need to develop innovative approaches to protect the ovary from damage during anti-cancer treatment.