NIH researchers find gene affects fertility in mice
Increasing activity of a single gene--FOXO3--increases fertility by 31 to 49 percent in female mice, report researchers at the National Institute on Aging, NIH. Variants of the FOXO3 gene have been previously associated with longevity in many animal models, including humans; but, in mice the main effect of loss or increase of FOXO3 is on ovary function.
In this study, researchers found that amplifying an active form of FOXO3 preserved ovarian follicles, a sign of reproductive health, and boosted number of offspring produced throughout adult life in female mice. The effects also likely extended reproductive lifespan, but more research is needed to explore that further, according to the researchers. In the same series of experiments, scientists confirmed earlier findings that FOXO3 knockout mice (mice without the gene) show a rapid loss of follicles and premature ovarian failure, and further demonstrated that the ovaries show premature aging. While it is far too early to determine any potential for human intervention, researchers suggest their findings raise the possibility of exploring a future gene therapy to postpone decline in fertility.
Reference: Pelosi E. et al. Constitutively active Foxo3 in oocytes preserves ovarian reserve in mice. Nature Communications. Published online, May 14, 2013. doi:10.1038/ncomms2861.