New Study Reveals Potential Causes of Female Infertility

Woman thinking about new study on potential causes of female infertility

New Study Reveals Potential Causes of Female Infertility

For over five years, a group of Estonian geneticists from the TalTech Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology have studied genes previously associated mostly with female hormone synthesis and ovarian follicle development.

What do the results indicate? Led by Associate Professor Agne Velthut-Meikas and Ph.D. student Ilmatar Rooda, the study suggests that these genes represent a far more multifaceted role in oocyte maturation than previously understood.

Let’s explore how the findings relate to female infertility.

What is Female Infertility?

Female infertility can occur anywhere along the complex pathway that starts in the brain and ends in a successful pregnancy.

For example, the woman’s system must be able to perform the following:

  • The ovary needs to release a mature egg (ovulation), a complex process directed by hormones from the brain and the ovary.
  • The egg needs to be picked up by the fimbriae of the fallopian tube to be brought into the genital tract.
  • In the fallopian tube, the egg must be fertilized by sperm within 24 hours to make an embryo.
  • The resulting embryo must travel to the uterus and implant for pregnancy to occur.

Any health conditions that prevent the above reproductive processes from occurring result in female infertility.

Study Reveals Potential New Causes of Female Infertility

Associate Professor Velthut-Meikas stated, “Among other things, the production and functioning of two proteins in ovarian granulosa cells is required. These important proteins are the follicle-stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR) and aromatase.”

FSHR receives the signal of a follicle-stimulation hormone from the pituitary gland, leading to the ovarian follicle growth and granulosa cell proliferation. Aromatase is the key enzyme responsible for the biosynthesis of the steroid hormone estradiol (female sex hormone) in granulosa cells. Mutations or rearrangements in their genes or deviations in the production of these proteins cause infertility in women; because the ovary is not functioning, the eggs are not maturing nor are they released from the ovary.

Associate Professor Velthut-Meikas further asserted, “Our study showed that these genes produce, in addition to the hitherto known proteins, small RNA molecules (microRNAs) also, which, by binding to their target genes, determine whether these target genes play their intended role in a cell. The microRNA targets we studied are responsible for processes crucial for female fertility—maintenance of the oocyte reserve, hormone production, and ovulation.”

Additionally, she added, “The findings of the study provide new information on the ovarian function which is important for a more accurate diagnosis of the causes of female infertility and for the development of new treatment options. The new knowledge can be used in infertility clinics to improve ovarian stimulation procedures prior to in vitro fertilization, which would significantly improve the effectiveness of infertility treatment.”

Interested in learning more about female infertility, connect with the FSMG team.

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