news item: DNA repair gene BRCA1 helps keep egg cells young

New research is showing a link between the BRCA1 gene (the “breast cancer” gene) and infertility. An article published by reports researchers from a NIH funded institute found that the BRCA1 gene, in its functional form, aided in the repair of female egg cells, keeping them from self-destruction.

As female eggs age, DNA damage occurs. The body has mechanisms to help repair these eggs, but eventually those mechanisms wear out as we age, and our eggs are no longer able to be repaired and they self-destruct. Enter menopause. However, for some women menopause occurs much earlier than anticipated and/or they are told they have relatively low egg reserve at a very young age. What causes this to occur?

Researchers looked at the role the BRCA1 gene plays in DNA repair for eggs of lab mice. In this study researchers turned off the genes, including the BRCA1 gene, associated with repairing damaged egg cells:

The research confirmed that a fully functional BRCA1 gene is extremely important to women’s health. Mice with non-functional BRCA1 genes were less fertile, had fewer oocytes, and had more double-stranded DNA breaks.

What does this mean for infertility? Will testing for BRCA1 defects become part of a standard infertility workup? Will women with a history of breast cancer in their families be encouraged to have some infertility testing done sooner rather than later, say checking egg reserve in their mid twenties?

We hope you will read “DNA Repair Gene BRCA1 Helps Keep Egg Cells Young” and let us know what you think.


Have you been tested for BRCA1 defects? 

Should women with low ovarian reserve be tested for the BRCA1 defects?

Conversely, should women with history of breast cancer be encouraged at a young age to undergo infertility testing along with BRCA1 testing?


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PAIL headshotChandra is a Mom and Foster Mom. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology and is particularly interested in the theology of infertility. Chandra grew up in the Northeast but she and her husband are raising their daughter in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana. She has 3 chickens that drive her crazy, a huge garden, and a penchant for bacon. She occasionally attempts to make sense of all those things, and more, over at her blog, MetholicBlog. She also shares embarrassing stories about her husband and unicorns.

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