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2015-03-04

Infertility Reversed in Mitochondrially-Related Obesity

If you've read my book published a few months ago (LIFE: The Epic Story of Our Mitochondria), you'll remember reading about the importance of mitochondrial health and function in age-related female infertility. Now, here's study that shows how the mitochondria are involved and affected in obesity-related female infertility (and hot on the heels of my last post, which was also on female infertility).

Further, in this study, researchers reveal how damage from obesity is passed from a mother to her children, and also how that damage can be reversed. These findings can have major implications for the future of fertility research.

“It’s now well established that obesity in females leads to very serious fertility problems, including the inability to conceive. Obesity can also result in altered growth of babies during pregnancy, and it permanently programs the metabolism of offspring, passing the damage caused by obesity from one generation to the next,” said the lead author.

“In our laboratory studies, we’ve been able to unravel a key mechanism that leads to this multi-generational damage, and we’ve found a way to stop it happening,” Associate Professor Robker says.

The research team found that obesity leads to a particular stress response that causes damage to the mitochondria, which are the essential energy-producing components within our cells.

Also as you may have read in my book, all the mitochondria in our bodies come from our mother (maternal inheritance). The researchers found that the eggs of such mothers lead to heavier-than-normal foetuses with greatly reduced amounts of mitochondrial DNA and other obvious signs of damage.

After having pinpointed the problem, the researchers then attempted to stop it from occurring by using compounds known to alleviate mitochondrial stress in the cells. In particular, we were interested in compounds that are also being tested in clinical trials for diabetes.

“These compounds were highly successful in preventing the stress response, thereby stopping the damage from obesity being passed onto the offspring. It restored egg quality, embryo development and mitochondrial DNA to levels equivalent to those of a healthy mother. Effectively, the problem was fully reversed.”

The results of this work point towards a potential future therapy to restore “natural” fertility in obese women, and to prevent multi-generational damage passing onto their children.

“Importantly, this work further highlights that a women’s nutritional state prior to getting pregnant matters greatly. Women are urged to eat healthy diets to optimize their chances for a healthy conception and to reduce the potential impact on their child’s future health.”

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Source: Mitochondrial dysfunction in oocytes of obese mothers: transmission to offspring and reversal by pharmacological endoplasmic reticulum stress inhibitors

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