This article describes the impact of maternal health on egg quality, and the research being undertaken at present to identify new opportunities to help protect eggs from the damaging impacts of external factors.
The influence of egg quality
Did you know that the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy, embryo and fetal development and even diseases affecting future offspring are all, in part, determined by a woman’s egg quality? The quality of an egg is determined during its growth and maturation as the egg prepares for fertilisation. During this time a woman’s eggs are highly susceptible and responsive to environmental signals, and it is for this reason that commonly observed conditions such as maternal diabetes and obesity are emerging as significant contributors towards reduced embryo quality, implantation and ongoing pregnancy rates.
Current and future research
Research is currently being undertaken to understand and identify new opportunities to help protect eggs from the damaging effects of these external factors. In the long run, this will hopefully allow for improved fertility management. In fact, recent studies from the University of Adelaide have shown that exposing mouse or bovine eggs to environmental stressors such as high glucose and lipids (seen as a result of diabetes or obesity) can negatively impact egg health and subsequent development.
In order to combat these environmental stressors, researchers are in the process of developing a drug aimed at treating the negative effects of diabetes, which can potentially help to improve egg and embryo quality. While this type of treatment is not available clinically, research will continue with the aim of improving IVF outcomes for women undergoing fertility treatment. These studies are also beginning to provide insight into the importance of good maternal health and well-being before becoming pregnant.
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Wong, S.L., Wu, L.L., Robker, R.L., Thompson, J.G. and McDowall, M.L.S., 2015. Hyperglycaemia and lipid differentially impair mouse oocyte developmental competence.Reproduction, Fertility and Development,27(4), pp.583-592.
Wu, L.L., Russell, D.L., Wong, S.L., Chen, M., Tsai, T.S., St John, J.C., Norman, R.J., Febbraio, M.A., Carroll, J. and Robker, R.L., 2015. Mitochondrial dysfunction in oocytes of obese mothers: transmission to offspring and reversal by pharmacological endoplasmic reticulum stress inhibitors.Development,142(4), pp.681-691.