Worms (nematodes) had a surprising gift to reproduce sex cells and viable eggs. Worms, when placed in a fasting situation, shut down their reproductive systems.
It is held as a fact that human women are born with a certain number of premature eggs. Once those eggs are released or damaged, the female goes through menopause and can no longer conceive children. According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the nematode may prove this dogma wrong.
Marc Van Gilst, Ph.D. and fellow researchers found that nematodes had a surprising gift to reproduce sex cells and viable eggs. During their research, the doctors found that the worms, when placed in a fasting situation, shut down their reproductive systems. Ovulation stopped and a small number of stem cells were the only part of the reproductive system left behind.
Once the fasting, or starvation, stopped and the nematodes established a normal feeding cycle again, the stem cells produced brand new eggs. "The idea that an entire system would kill itself off during starvation and then regenerate upon food restoration was very surprising," offered Giana Angelo, Ph.D., who also worked on the study.
During the study, nematodes with active and inactive NHR-49 genes were withheld food. After the period of starvation, food was reintroduced. The number of offspring were used to assess the health of the reproductive system.
At the heart of the reproduction of the reproductive system is the NHR-49 protein. This protein is similar to estrogen and androgen receptors in humans. The NHR-49 is responsible for "metabolic response to dietary restriction and fasting."
Researchers noted that the results of the study are based on germ line stem cells which may not be present in humans. More research is needed into the potential association between cell starvation and egg production.
Source: MedicalHealthNewsToday.com / August 2009