Rome, Italy: Researchers have developed a way of accurately predicting when women will hit the menopause using a simple blood test. The average difference between the predicted age and the actual age that the women in their study reached the menopause was only a third of a year, and the maximum margin of error was between three and four years.
Dr Fahimeh Ramezani Tehrani will tell the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome today (Monday) that her findings have implications for women and their doctors; if the results of the research are supported by larger studies, it means that women will be able to discover early on in their reproductive life what their expected age at menopause will be, so that they can plan when to start a family.
By taking blood samples from 266 women, aged 20-49, who had been enrolled in the much larger Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study, Dr Ramezani Tehrani and her colleagues were able to measure the concentrations of a hormone that is produced by cells in women's ovaries – anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH). AMH controls the development of follicles in the ovaries, from which oocytes (eggs) develop and it has been suggested that AMH could be used for measuring ovarian function. The researchers took two further blood samples at three yearly intervals, and they also collected information on the women's socioeconomic background and reproductive history. In addition, the women had physical examinations every three years. The Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study is a prospective study that started in 1998 and is still continuing.
Such a predictive capability certainly is useful for women who want to know when they'll lose their fertility. But it has additional uses in the study of the aging process. Methods for measuring rates of aging are useful because they enable researchers to much more rapidly check whether drugs, diet, and other measures to slow aging are actually providing any benefit. For example, drugs that might slow ovary aging could be tested for their effects on blood AMH levels.
A 20 year old who is going to experience early onset of menopause could be warned 15 to 20 years in advance.
"The results from our study could enable us to make a more realistic assessment of women's reproductive status many years before they reach menopause. For example, if a 20-year-old woman has a concentration of serum AMH of 2.8 ng/ml [nanograms per millilitre], we estimate that she will become menopausal between 35-38 years old. To the best of our knowledge this is the first prediction of age at menopause that has resulted from a population-based cohort study. We believe that our estimates of ages at menopause based on AMH levels are of sufficient validity to guide medical practitioners in their day-to-day practice, so that they can help women with their family planning."
Another advantage of being able to detect some aging or disease outcome decades in advance: One can study the diet and lifestyle of people decades before the change or disease manifests and one does not have to guess what happened decades previously that might or might not have contributed to the outcome.
Gene expression could also be studied in younger women to look for differences in patterns in gene expression and also in genetic sequences to try to pin down a genetic cause that plays out over decades.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 June 27 04:53 PM Biotech Reproduction|