Video Text Alternative: Meet Our Researchers: How does age affect sperm and eggs?

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Meet Our Researchers: Aging eggs, aging sperm

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GRAPHIC SLIDE: Stuart B. Moss, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Taymans and Dr. Stuart Moss on camera.
Dr. Stuart Moss: Unlike women, men have stem cells in the testes that can produce functional sperm, theoretically, throughout the course of their lives. So, you can have men in their 70s, 80s, 90s producing sperm. These stem cells exist, and they can do what they have to do for that period of time.
Dr. Moss on camera. Dr. Moss: However, there’s more and more data coming out that it’s not as simple as that. In that, as men age and decide to have a family and father children, there is an increased incidence of certain diseases with the offspring. For example, there’s been correlations with higher incidence of autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorders, and other neurological factors.
Dr. Taymans and Dr. Moss on camera. Dr. Moss: We’re still early on in the research. But one of the ideas behind this is that,
Dr. Moss on camera. Dr. Moss: as the father ages, those cells that are going to produce the sperm can accumulate more mutations and, as the aging process continues, those mutations
Dr. Taymans and Dr. Moss on camera. Dr. Moss: can’t be corrected as effectively as when the male was younger.
GRAPHIC SLIDE: Susan Taymans, Ph.D.

Dr. Taymans
on camera.
Dr. Susan Taymans: Women have about 10 years before the menopause where they’re still perhaps menstruating entirely regularly but they no longer have optimal fertility, because they are aging. They have fewer oocytes left, and the oocytes left that they do have are more likely to be genetically abnormal. So, having regular menstruation is a good sign. But it doesn’t mean necessarily that you have kept your fertility.
Dr. Taymans and Dr. Moss on camera. Dr. Taymans: And something that I think a lot of women don’t realize is that, as they age, not only are they less likely to get pregnant because they have fewer eggs, but the eggs that they have remaining are of much poorer quality.

So, the problem with egg production in a woman is that it starts very early in life and then the eggs freeze at a certain state of development. And they’re staying in that frozen state until they’re called upon to ovulate.
Dr. Taymans on camera. Dr. Taymans: So, for some women, they could have eggs in a suspended state for as much as 40 years when you get to the end of their reproductive life. Errors can accumulate, the process can go awry in reactivation. There’s some evidence coming out now that DNA repair is also important for oocytes in that, as women age, that process becomes less efficient.
Dr. Taymans and Dr. Moss on camera. Dr. Taymans: So, even if they are able to get pregnant, there is a much higher rate of loss of those pregnancies very early on. There’s a much higher rate of miscarriage because the eggs carry genetic abnormalities that can’t support an ongoing pregnancy.
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