Chinese researchers have discovered that a gene called MTOR plays a key role in the ability of women to release healthy eggs from their ovaries.
MTOR, which stands for Mechanistic Target Of Rapamycin, is recognised by scientists worldwide as an integrator of pathways which can turn genes on and off, or spur a cell to move.
It is responsible for regulating cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation.
In experiments on mice, researchers at Nanjing Medical University tried to shut down the MTOR gene at all stages of egg cell development.
They found that once the MTOR pathways were deactivated, female mice could not release healthy eggs, which led to infertility.
However, on the question of whether it be prevented, their findings may be disappointing.
“It may not be necessary to check whether the MTOR gene is functioning or mutated in pre-pregnancy tests,” said Zhang Teng, lead researcher on the study.
“Because without the gene, it is almost impossible to have a viable egg, and the gene has performed its function in egg development since before the woman was born.”
To encourage an optimal MTOR pathway, Zhang suggested that women of childbearing age maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, exercise reasonably and avoid excessive stress.
The research was recently published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.