Key to Making Egg Cells Mature Found, Researchers Say
Credit: Diego Vito Cervo | Dreamstime

Women whose egg cells do not mature will not become pregnant, and they cannot be helped by in vitro fertilization (IVF), which requires mature egg cells to produce an embryo. Now, researchers in Sweden working with mice say they have found that a protein called Cdk1 plays an important role in egg maturation.

This finding could lead to an increased success rate in IVF, according to the researchers.

"This is the first functional evidence that Cdk1 is a key molecule in mammalian egg maturation. If the results can be translated into clinical settings, it could possibly improve the chances of successful IVF treatment for women who today are not becoming pregnant because their eggs do not mature," said study researcher Kui Liu, a professor at the University of Gothenburg.

A woman's eggs begin to develop before she is born, but egg development is halted in an early stage, and the cells remain immature throughout childhood. When a girl enters puberty, the eggs resume maturing, and proteins called cyclin-dependent kinases are thought to be involved in this process, but exactly how it works is not well understood.

Liu and his colleagues found that when Cdk1 was removed from eggs of mice, their eggs stopped maturing. When the molecule was added again, maturation resumed.

"We are eager to start tests on human eggs. Hopefully we can apply this in clinics within ten years," Liu said.

Up to 15 percent of all women of reproductive age struggle to become pregnant, according to the article. 

The findings were published online Feb. 24 in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

Pass it on: By studying a protein called cdk1, researchers may gain a better insight into some cases of infertility in women.

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