During a recent study, a team of researchers have identified a drug that extends egg viability in worms, even when taken midway through the fertile window. This latest finding shows that it could potentially extend a woman's fertility by three to six years.
"One of the most important characteristics of ageing is the loss of reproductive ability in mid-adulthood," Coleen Murphy, Professor at the Princeton University in the US said.
"As early as the mid-30s, women start to experience declines in fertility, increased rates of miscarriage and maternal age-related birth defects. All of these problems are thought to be caused by declining egg quality, rather than a lack of eggs," Murphy added.
The researchers used a microscopic worm named Caenorhabditis elegans (C.elegans) in the study, published in the journal Current Biology, as it shares many of the genes as humans, including longevity genes.
The team found out that a group of proteins called Cathepsin B proteases "downregulate", or lead to lower-quality oocytes (unfertilised eggs), as one ages.
According to the researchers, when they administered the Cathepsin B inhibitor halfway through the worms' reproductive period, they found that even a late administration of the drug could extend the worms' egg quality.
Meanwhile, another experiment knocked out that the cathepsin B genes entirely succeeded in extending worms' fertility by about 10 per cent. Nicole Templeman from varsity said, "It could be a three- to six-year extension of your reproductive period", if applied to humans.
The researchers said that the reproductive decline is a hallmark of ageing. But despite its prevalence, interventions to slow the loss of reproductive capacity are lacking.
However, Murphy said that the cathepsin B inhibitor is nowhere near ready for testing in humans. But, the researcher hopes that it could one day do something mid-reproduction to improve the rest of reproduction.