It may be common in the next decade or two to see women in their 50s pregnant or nursing their tots. This is because of a technology that reverses the age of eggs, making them viable for fertilization.
A team of Israeli scientists say they have successfully ‘reverse-aged’ human eggs by about 20 years. They reversed the age of eggs from women in their 40s to make them look like those of women in their 20s.
Women’s eggs begin to deteriorate with age, making it difficult for them to be fertilized by a sperm. The average female in her early 20s has an 80 percent chance of getting pregnant naturally. This is halved by the age of 40. Only few hundreds of women in the UK are able to get pregnant in their 50s.
The researchers, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, say exposing older eggs to an antiviral drugs used for the treatment of HIV, could reverse deterioration. They explain that the drug, which blocks genetic damage during viral infections, is able to prevent DNA damage in ageing eggs.
Dr Michael Klustein, the molecular biologist who led the research, told the Times of Israel:
Because the attacking DNA behaves like a virus, we hypothesized that antiviral medicine administered to eggs may reverse age them and rejuvenate them, and found in our lab that this is the case. We tested hundreds of mouse eggs and then human eggs, which confirmed the hypothesis.
With the success of this study, the team now intends to conduct animal trials and eventually test it on humans. The scientists also believe the treatment could minimize the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, common with older pregnancies. Dr Klustein, said:
Many women are trying to get pregnant aged 40 and over, and we think this could actually increase their level of fertility. Within 10 years, we hope to use antiviral drugs to increase fertility among older women.
However, the process did not involve introducing sperm to the treated eggs, so it is unclear whether it enhances fertility.