According to a new study published in Nature with over 200,000 female participants, there are over 290 genetic variants that could signify an estimated menopause start date. The findings from this study open a door to many new variables in the prediction of menopause timing. While it may seem daunting, this type of prediction is (eventually) possible.
Egg Quality and Count
Those who are assigned female at birth are born with cells that will eventually turn into eggs in the ovaries and are released during ovulation in a normal menstrual cycle. Over time, the body will eliminate any eggs containing damaged DNA. This process begins around 10 years before menopause and drastically increases during menopause, causing a sharp decrease in fertility.
According to the study, women who have lost function of the gene CHEK2, a protein that can trigger a cell to self-destruct, had about a 10% variation in age for the start of menopause from those with the functioning protein. This finding notes that women with the underactivity of this gene typically had a 3.5-year delay in the start of menopause. This means that immature eggs survived longer in the ovaries in women who lost the function of CHEK2.
What can this discovery do?
While the prospect of manipulating the timing of menopause by targeting CHEK proteins is an idea fit for future exploration, it is not human-ready– yet. There might be other health concerns to take into consideration. While the delay of menopause could lead to a reduced chance of developing type two diabetes or poor bone health, there may be an increased risk of hormonal cancers, such as breast cancer.
This discovery is a stepping stone to a vast topic of research into fertility and menopause. Eventually, scientists hope to predict the length of a given fertility window, allowing for reproductive choices to be made in a more informed manner, according to John Perry, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge.