Menopause breakthrough as scientists find genes to delay ageing process

The One Show: Louise Minchin discusses menopause

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Researchers have discovered the specific combinations of DNA that influence when a woman’s reproductive life comes to an end. Scientists have found 290 genetic variations and about 80 genes that modulate the arrival of menopause. The DNA combinations dictate, alongside environmental conditions, whether menopause arrives early or late.

Now a study has found that manipulating some of these genes could make it possible to delay the onset of menopause.

Laboratory experiments on female mice has shown how gene editing can affect the menopause in mammals.

The tests on mice have indicated that turning off certain genes and making other genes work harder can extend reproductive life by about 25 percent.

The results of the research was published in the journal Nature, and showed how future new therapies for infertility could be developed.

Genetic data from two databases of 210,323 women of European origin and 80,000 women of Asian origin were analysed in the study.

The research found that out of a total of about 13.1 million genetic variants, 290 variants have been found to regulate the ageing process of the ovaries.

Manipulating these genetic variants could change the period of onset of menopause.

It was found that many of these genes are linked to DNA repair processes.

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Some of the genetic combinations are active even before birth and others continue to be active throughout life.

Daniela Toniolo, researcher at the San Raffaele Centre for Omics Sciences, said: “A total of 290 variants and around 80 genes that regulate the natural age of menopause have been identified.

“Many of these are involved in cell death and DNA repair.

“A mechanism that also leads to the loss of oocytes.”

Around 180 scientific institutions from all over the world participated in the research.

The research was coordinated by the University of Cambridge alongside the San Raffaele Institute in Milan, the National Research Council of Cagliari and the Burlo Garofolo of Trieste.

Referring to the work on mice Ms Toniolo said: “Mice do not go through menopause, but they have a decline in fertility.

“These results make us think that there could be pharmacological ways to lengthen the fertility period in women, especially those who lost it early.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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