Preserving fertility in female cancer patients and ageing populations

May 21, 2020

A Monash University study 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, led by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI), 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.

Findings published in the medical journal PNAS, led by Associate Professor Karla Hutt and Dr Jessica Stringer, outline that among the many types of DNA damage, double-strand breaks (DSBs) are the most harmful and promote chromosome rearrangements and mutations and lead to genetic instability if the DSBs are repaired incorrectly.

"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 to repair DSBs and confirmed that repair is efficient and accurate to prevent mutations in offspring generated from these eggs," Associate Professor Hutt said.

Unlike other cells in the human body, oocytes have an extremely low tolerance for DNA damage and will activate cell death pathways when exposed to the stressors of things like radiation, chemotherapeutic drugs, and environmental toxins (e.g. pollution, pesticides). Blocking oocyte death is being actively investigated as one of the most promising methods to preserve future fertility and endocrine health in female cancer patients.

"Cancer treatments work by causing DNA damage, and a common side effect for female patients is ovarian damage which can lead to infertility and loss of endocrine function (such as early onset menopause). This study provides a fundamental step towards developing a truly effective fertility preservation strategy for female cancer patients and has important implications for prolonging women's fertile lifespan," Dr Stringer said.

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.

Moreover, in Australia, 20 per cent of women have their first child after 35 years of age, an age at which fertility plummets and rates of miscarriage and birth defects increase dramatically. This striking maternal age effect is due to loss of oocyte quality and possibly diminished DNA repair capacity.
-end-
About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

Media enquiries

Monash media
+61 (0) 425 725 836
media@monash.edu

Monash University

Related DNA Articles from Brightsurf:

A new twist on DNA origami
A team* of scientists from ASU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) led by Hao Yan, ASU's Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, and director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, has just announced the creation of a new type of meta-DNA structures that will open up the fields of optoelectronics (including information storage and encryption) as well as synthetic biology.

Solving a DNA mystery
''A watched pot never boils,'' as the saying goes, but that was not the case for UC Santa Barbara researchers watching a ''pot'' of liquids formed from DNA.

Junk DNA might be really, really useful for biocomputing
When you don't understand how things work, it's not unusual to think of them as just plain old junk.

Designing DNA from scratch: Engineering the functions of micrometer-sized DNA droplets
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have constructed ''DNA droplets'' comprising designed DNA nanostructures.

Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?
Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method to count individual fish by measuring the concentration of environmental DNA in the water, which could be applied for quantitative monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.

Zigzag DNA
How the cell organizes DNA into tightly packed chromosomes. Nature publication by Delft University of Technology and EMBL Heidelberg.

Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.

DNA is like everything else: it's not what you have, but how you use it
A new paradigm for reading out genetic information in DNA is described by Dr.

A new spin on DNA
For decades, researchers have chased ways to study biological machines.

From face to DNA: New method aims to improve match between DNA sample and face database
Predicting what someone's face looks like based on a DNA sample remains a hard nut to crack for science.

Read More: DNA News and DNA Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.