Description:
 
Background
The ability of the female germ cell, called an oocyte, to mature into an egg, fertilize, and develop into a healthy preimplantation embryo required for successful pregnancy (whether fertilization occurs inside (in vivo) or outside (in vitro) the body) is influenced by the quality of the oocyte itself (viz. intrinsic factors) as well as oocyte-extrinsic factors deriving from the environment in which the oocyte resides.
The ovaries are the first organs to fail with age in almost all mammalian species, including humans, and this event is well out-of-sync with chronological lifespan. For example, while the average lifespan of women in the United States of America approaches 80 years, the ovarian function begins a precipitous decline around 35–38 years of age. 
Recent findings show that the dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) can be detected in GCs of adult mammalian ovaries long before any other known markers of compromised oocyte quality and fertility associated with ovarian aging. Such dissipation has been experimentally tied to aberrant mitochondrial function, including abnormal bioenergetic capacity and excessive generation of ROS, which, if left unchecked or unremedied, could lead to improper signaling between GCs and their adjacent oocytes as well as to disruptions in oocyte function tied to fertilization and development competency.
 
Technology Overview
This invention provides a method of diagnosing or detecting pending problems with fertility in female mammals due to the deterioration of oocyte quality associated with chronological aging, genetic disorders, disease conditions or exposure to various chemicals or agents capable of causing reproductive harm in females. The method comprises a collection of GCs from individual ovarian follicles in vivo, through any number of conventional means including, but not limited to, ultrasound-guided transvaginal needle aspiration and assessment of the mitochondrial profiles in the collected GCs for changes in mitochondrial dynamics indicative of aberrant function. 
The invention provides methods for improving natural and assisted reproduction in females, especially those whose egg and embryo quality have diminished due to maternal age in particular. The invention also provides methods to improve the efficacy of in vitro (outside-the-body) systems designed to generate eggs from stem cells for reproductive purposes. As a result, higher quality egg quality can be achieved, which will translate into improved outcomes for fertilization and embryo development.
 
Benefits
- It provides methods for improving natural and assisted reproduction in females.
- It provides methods to improve the efficacy of in vitro (outside-the-body) systems designed to generate eggs from stem cells for reproductive purposes, such that higher quality egg quality can be achieved.
- Improved outcomes for fertilization and embryo development.
 
Applications
- Early detection of pending ovarian aging
 
Opportunity
- License
- Partnering
- Research collaboration
Patent Information:
Category(s):
Bioengineering/Tissue
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
m.saulich@northeastern.edu
Inventors:
Dori Woods
Jonathan Tilly
Keywords: