In a new study, researchers have discovered a critical reason why women experience fertility problems as they get older.
Dr. Johne Liu from, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and professor at the University of Ottawa, also points to a simple solution that could increase the viability of egg cells for women in their late 30s and older - putrescine water.
In the new study, Liu outlines how a simple program of drinking water or taking a pill that contains the naturally occurring compound putrescine could reduce the rate at which middle-aged women produce eggs with the incorrect number of chromosomes, the leading cause of reduced fertility and increases in miscarriages and congenital birth defects.
Putrescine is naturally produced in mammals by an enzyme called ornithine decarboxylase,or ODC, and is easily absorbed and cleared by the body.
In female mammals, ODC levels are known to rise during ovulation, when the egg cell matures and is released from the ovary. Dr. Liu has shown that ODC levels rise very little in older females. He has also shown that inhibiting ODC levels in young mice leads to an increase in egg cells with chromosomal defects.
Taking this a step further, Dr. Liu's team gave older mice putrescine water in the period immediately leading up to and during ovulation, and found that it reduced the incidence of defective eggs by more than 50 percent.
"This is a remarkable outcome for such a simple approach," Dr. Liu said.
"However, we could not have imagined this without first understanding the role that ODC and putrescine play in maintaining the chromosomal integrity of egg cells. While there is work to be done before it can be approved for clinical use, we feel this approach could be used for natural conception as well as in vitro fertilization," Liu said.
Although promising, a putrescine pill is still a long way from being available on the market. Putrescine is toxic to the foetus if it is administered after conception, which makes timing, dosage and monitoring critical.
Accordingly, this approach must go through the appropriate stages of testing to determine its clinical safety and effectiveness in humans.
The study has been published online in Ageing. (ANI)