Scientists discover genome responsible for the timing of the menopause
Sections of DNA that control when women go through the menopause have been identified by scientists. Their report, in the journal Nature Genetics, identified genes involved in how the body repairs itself. Among the team are 3 Greek researchers , Antonis Antoniou and Kyriaki Michailidou of Cambridge University and Drakoulis Giannoukakos of Demokritos, Greece.
Ultimately the findings could contribute to a fertility or menopause test, or lead to new drugs. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said the results were important for those at risk of an early menopause.
Most women go through the menopause between the ages of 40 and 60. However, what controls that timescale is not completely clear. Comparing the DNA of nearly 70,000 women allowed the researchers to identify the differences between those starting the menopause early and late.
The team at Exeter and Cambridge universities showed that at least two repair mechanisms were involved. The first is used when the eggs are being formed and the woman’s DNA is being broken, rearranged and repaired. The second corrects damage, caused by factors such as smoking or alcohol, throughout a woman’s life. Both would influence the number of viable eggs a woman has.
Dr Anna Murray, one of the researchers from the University of Exeter, told the BBC News website: “We would love to be able to do that, but the answer is no.
“[But] possibly by adding other risk factors such as smoking, hormone levels we might be able to get towards something more useful.”
Dr Murray said the findings could help develop new drugs: “We really don’t understand the process of egg loss, the timing of it, so better understanding of the basic biology of losing eggs will help us with that.”
The researchers also found genes that controlled menopause timing were involved in both the age of puberty and the development of breast cancer.