Smarter than all cells, oocytes “feign” the biological mechanism and survive for up to five decades

A study by the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona explains why oocytes, unlike other cells, manage to survive around 50 years (and allow women to be able to get pregnant at older ages)

It was one of the oldest cellular puzzles and there were already theories on the table, but only now has certainty arrived. Why, unlike all other cells, can oocytes survive “in good health” for five decades? Because they “feign” a common biological mechanism – mitochondrial energy production complex 1.

The question is complex and it took years to come to this conclusion. Every cell in the human body contains hundreds, if not thousands, of mitochondria, what science calls the powerhouse of cells, the engine that gives them life – but also kills them. The accumulation of mitochondria explains the The countrycan lead to DNA mutations and early cell death (not all cells have the same survival time, some can “live” for years, some for decades, and some for only a few months).

In the mitochondria, energy occurs with the movement of electrons between five protein complexes and it is this synergy that generates life in the human body, causing cells to be born, live and die. However, a team of scientists from the Center for Genomic Regulation at the Institute of Science and Technology in Barcelona, ​​Spain, discovered that oocytes escape the first of five protein complexes (complex 1), which is the one that can cause la la most of the negative effects and damage the cells and, therefore, manage to survive for fifty years in the ovaries without their reproductive capacity being compromised.

Since humans are also the longest-lived land mammals, oocytes must be maintained in top condition and avoid decades of wear and tear. We show that this problem is solved by bypassing a fundamental metabolic reaction which is also the main source of cellular damage.. As a long-term maintenance strategy, it’s like putting the engine in neutral. This represents a new paradigm never seen before in animal cells.explains researcher Aida Rodríguez, quoted by Eureka Alert.

Published in the journal naturethe study used live imaging, proteomics (study of proteins in cells) and biochemical techniques to analyze human oocytes and Xenopus frogs (frog with damaged nails) and concluded that the oocytes used alternative pathways to generate energy, a deviation from complex life 1.

What can this study bring to the future?

According to the authors, the findings are not just the resolution of a puzzle, but a way to understand fertility, since women with mitochondrial diseases linked to complex 1 do not show signs of reduced fertility, since oocytes remain ” intact” for years.

In addition, this discovery could be a springboard for finding new ways to preserve women’s ovarian reserves during cancer treatments, in addition to being able to give rise, on its own, to new cancer treatments, since the inhibitors of complex 1 – already recommended for the treatment of certain tumors – if they show promise in future studies, they could potentially reach cancer cells without affecting oocytes.

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