Maternal age effects on next generation

Jim Cummins cummins at possum.murdoch.edu.au
Fri Sep 10 19:35:24 EST 1993

Does anyone in the group have any information on the effects of
maternal age on aging processes in their progeny?  The background to
this is that mitochondrial DNA deletions and mutations are now thought
to have a strong association with aging and degenerative processes. 
Mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited and one source of defective
mitochondria might be the eggs of women who reproduce late in life.  We
know from oocyte donation programs that the fertility of eggs starts to
decline when women pass their mid-30s, and possible even as early as
32.  Certainly from 35 on there is a dramatic fall in fertility.  The
age of first birth in W Europe is approaching 30, and for women in
infertility programs 50% are over 35 years.  The oocyte is in arrested
dictyate meiosis from fetal life until shortly before the ovulatory
cycle, and it's conceivable that mitochondrial genomic (as well as
nuclear genomic) errors can build up. We have started evaluating
paternal and maternal age in men with unexplained infertility, as this
seems to have a link with mitochondrial disorders.  However, I wonder
if any other workers in the area have any data? The children of older
women need careful evaluation, as mitochondrial disorders can be quite

Jim Cummins
School of Veterinary Studies,
Murdoch University,
Western Australia 6150  

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