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Aging eggs and DNA: Why it’s harder to get pregnant after 35

It has long been known that the age of a woman’s eggs play a role in her ability to get pregnant. Now a team of researchers at New York Medical College have added to our understanding of why it is more difficult for women to get pregnant, and carry a viable pregnancy to term, when they are older.

In a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, eggs were extracted from 24 women who were between the ages of 24 and 41. DNA repair genes were found to be much less active in the eggs of the older women, as compared to the eggs of the younger women in this study. The ability to repair DNA appears to become increasingly compromised in several different genes as women age – and significantly worsens as women near the end of their fertile years in their early 40s. This may lead to accumulated damage to the eggs, causing them to die more rapidly.

In addition, the researchers found that women with the BRCA1 gene mutation had fewer eggs in their ovaries – suggesting that women who carry the BRCA1 mutation may be particularly vulnerable to fertility problems with advanced age. Says lead researcher Otkay,

We found a reason behind age-related infertility, why women become infertile as they become older…We are saying here is how women’s eggs age.

Oktay is now researching possible treatments to preserve the function of DNA repair genes inside women’s eggs, with the ultimate aim of extending women’s childbearing years.

Read more about this study here.

Read more about age-related fertility decline among women here and here.

Read more about egg quality here.

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