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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Genetic regions linked to timing of menopause

31 January 2012

By Victoria Kay

Appeared in BioNews 642

Thirteen genomic regions appear to influence the age at onset of menopause, according to a genetic study. These regions contain genes involved in DNA repair and immune responses, processes not previously linked to menopause.

The researchers - a large international team of collaborators - hope these findings will help to explain why some women experience menopause early, as well as providing insights into the genetic basis of menopause-related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

'Menopause is a process most women go through, yet we know very little about what governs the timing of this key event in a woman's life', said Dr Anna Murray, one of the senior researchers from the University of Exeter, UK. 'By finding out which genes control the timing of menopause we hope to be able understand why this happens very early to some women, reducing their chances of having children naturally'.

Menopause defines the period in which reproductive function in the ovaries ends, and occurs naturally in most women during their 50s. It is marked by a massive change in the regulation of certain hormones and most previous studies have focused on genes related to this process, in particular those involved in oestrogen regulation.

This study, published in Nature Genetics, looked at the genomes of 50,000 women of European descent who had experienced menopause between the ages of 40 and 60. In addition to confirming four previously identified genomic regions, 13 novel ones were identified that appear to influence the timing of menopause in these women. The location of DNA repair and immune response genes within these regions suggests, for the first time, the involvement of other biological processes in the onset of menopause.

Professor Kathryn Lunetta, one of the lead researchers from Boston University, USA, said: 'We hope that as a better understanding of the biological effects of these menopause-related [genomic regions] are uncovered, we will gain new insights into the connections between menopause and cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis and other traits related to ageing, and that this will provide avenues for prevention and treatment of these conditions'.

A similar large-scale study is underway in African-American women to determine whether the genetic risk factors are the same as those identified in women of European descent.



17 June 2013 - by Lucy Harris 
Men's preference for younger partners has led to the development of the menopause in women, according to a recently published theory in PLOS Computational Biology.... [Read More]
18 February 2013 - by Yick Siew Tan 
A slowdown in DNA repair mechanisms, one of which involves the BRCA genes implicated in cancer, may partly explain why women's eggs rapidly decline in both quantity and quality in middle age... [Read More]
12 November 2012 - by Joseph Jebelli 
A woman's fertility may be strongly linked to the age her mother was at menopause, according to research... [Read More]
23 April 2012 - by Victoria Burchell 
Chemical alterations in a group of genes affect how we age, scientists have discovered. These changes switch genes on or off in response to diet or environmental factors throughout our lives. Researchers found that four genes that are epigentically switched off in later life may have a bearing on how well we age... [Read More]

25 October 2010 - by Victoria Kay 
New research may lead to a genetic test to identify women at risk of early menopause... [Read More]
28 June 2010 - by Dr Gabrielle Samuel 
Women could soon find out how long they have left to start a family thanks to a blood test that determines when they will go through menopause.... [Read More]
09 November 2009 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
The discovery that variations in a gene called FMR1 could indicate the length of a woman's fertility by indicating the rate at which her egg supply will diminish may enable some women to find out how long they are likely to remain fertile. It is currently difficult to predict which women will experience premature ageing of their ovaries, but Norbert Gleicher at the Center of Human Reproduction in New York believes he will be able to study variations in a gene known as FMR1 - mutations in whic... [Read More]
06 May 2008 - by Katy Sinclair 
A group of researchers at the Bourn Hall Clinic, Queensland University of Technology and the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, have concluded that IVF treatment does not hasten the onset of the menopause or the severity of symptoms, having investigated the first generation of... [Read More]

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