Frog Eggs Hatch Clues to Human Infertility

The immature ovum's nutrient supply may be key to success, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Studies in immature frog eggs are giving scientists insights into human infertility.

In studies with frog oocytes -- immature eggs -- a team at Duke University in Durham, N.C., found that the yolk plays an important role in regulating the survival of the eggs. Depleting the yolk triggered programmed cell death (apoptosis) while adding nutrients to the yolk prolonged the life of the frog oocytes.

The findings, which appear in the Oct. 7 issue of Cell, may help in the development of improved fertility treatments for women and oocyte-protective therapies for women undergoing chemotherapy.

"This discovery provides a basic science underpinning for understanding the mechanisms of oocyte death and a way to identify potential clinical treatments," study author Sally Kornbluth, an associate professor of pharmacology and cancer biology, said in a prepared statement.

"Our work provides evidence for a metabolic timer in which oocytes that use up their energy stores are fated to die," added study author Leta Nutt, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of pharmacology and cancer biology.

As women age, their stockpile of oocytes is reduced due to cell death. This eventually leads to infertility.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about infertility.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Oct. 6, 2005

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