COPENHAGEN — Women who give birth after age 45 may have a special set of genes that makes them more fertile than average women, according to Israeli researchers.
“These women are models for us to learn about fertility,” Neri Laufer, M.D., said at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
Dr. Laufer of Hadassah University Medical Center, Jerusalem, outlined his work with more than 200 Ashkenazi Jewish women who had conceived spontaneously after the age of 45 (Fertil. Steril. 2004;81:1328–32).
“More than 80% of these women have six children or more and a low miscarriage rate,” he said.
Genetic profiling performed on eight of these women identified a clustering of genes that decreases apoptosis and increases DNA repair. The genes were not found in a control group of six women of the same age whose childbearing had ended at age 30.
“These women appear to differ from the normal population due to a unique genetic predisposition that protects them from the DNA damage and cellular aging that helps age the ovary,” Dr. Laufer said.
Preliminary work with a group of similarly fertile Bedouin women has identified the same genetic expression, he said at a news conference. Dr. Laufer said his team plans to study women from other ethnic/genetic groups to compare their genetic fingerprints. Identifying the presence or absence of this gene set could help doctors counsel women about their reproductive expectations, he said.
He added that the presence of genes linked to extended reproductive potential may indicate genetic capabilities to resist general aging. “What we don't yet know is, will these women also live longer?”