Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Older Women's Eggs Are More at Risk; North Research Could Bring Hope to Couples

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Older Women's Eggs Are More at Risk; North Research Could Bring Hope to Couples

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson

EXPERTS on Tyneside have uncovered the secret behind the increased risk of miscarriages and Down's Syndrome in older women.

Their research will bring hope to the many couples following the growing trend of conceiving in their late 30 and 40s, a time of increased risk for many pregnant women.

Researchers say they might one day be able to identify eggs which are less likely to produce a healthy child past middle age and even a way to slow down cell damage.

But Newcastle's leading experts have warned women must not be fooled into thinking medical science will make it possible to have a baby well into their 40s. "I would hate for this research to make women complacent," said Dr Mary Herbert, an expert at the Newcastle Institute of Ageing and Health.

"It is potentially good news but it is not a replacement for simply having a baby when your body is at its best.

"This is something that just happens with age as you get older and by far the best message for women is not to delay having a baby. It is tough because, yes we are living longer, but I don't think our ovaries are keeping pace with our lifestyles."

Dr Herbert's team discovered the key protein that may be responsible for the abnormal eggs following tests on mice.

While researchers have long known that women who have babies in their late 30s and 40s are at an increased risk of the baby having a disability due to eggs containing the wrong number of chromosomes, the underlying cause has not been known.

Tests have suggested declining levels of proteins called Cohesins in aging women may be to blame.

Cohesins hold chromosomes together by entrapping them in a ring, allowing cells to divide evenly and without this controlled split fertilised eggs are more likely to be miscarried.

Dr Herbert said it might be that once the cohesion levels are lost they cannot be rebuilt, but that the work could lead to a technique to slow down the process or identify which women are at a greater risk of having a baby with Down's Syndrome. …

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