Scientists have identified a drug that could extend egg fertility in worms, which they say may also extend women’s fertility by three to six years.
According to Science Daily, an American science news website, Coleen Murphy, who led the study, specialises in using microscopic worms, Caenorhabditis elegans (C.elegans) to study longevity because it has many of the same genes as humans.
Researchers had discovered several years ago that C. elegans’ unfertilised eggs showed similar declines in quality with age as human eggs.
Murphy said the question of how to maintain egg quality with age has been ignored by researchers.
She explained that women experience a decline in fertility and increased rates of miscarriage mainly because of declining egg quality rather than a lack of eggs.
For the study, day three of worms’ adulthood was chosen as an experimental subject, the equivalent of women in their early 30s.
The results showed that when cathepsin B, a key protein in old and poor-quality C.elegans eggs, are inhibited midway through the fertility window, the egg viability is extended beyond the normal span.
In addition, when the cathepsin B genes were knocked out entirely, the worms’ fertility was increased by about 10 percent, which could be a three to six years extension of the reproductive period, according to the study.
Yet Murphy admitted it is hard to believe that microscopic worms could have anything in common with mammals and the cathepsin B inhibitor is far away from being tested in humans.
She still felt excited she had found something new in worms, which indicated the study might also be conducted on mammals.