A significant portion of female infertility is a consequence of incorrect egg development. Errors in pre-ovulation egg development can result in the egg being unable to mature to the appropriate stage for fertilisation. Additionally, errors in egg maturation can result in abnormal chromosome segregation, which is a leading cause of miscarriage and birth defects. Alarmingly, the rates which these chromosome abnormalities occur increases with increasing maternal age. This becomes particularly relevant, as there is a trend for woman in developed countries to delay chid bearing. We also know that as a woman ages there is a gradual increase in the levels of oxidative stress inducing hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) within the follicular fluid of her ovaries. High levels of oxidative stress in human follicular fluid correlate with poor egg quality, diminishing embryo development and subsequent successful pregnancies. During my PhD I will explore the link between two major players effecting female fertility; age and oxidative stress. While there is significant clinical evidence to suggest the accumulation of oxidative stress with age is partially responsible for the decline is egg quality seen with age, the mechanisms underpinning these events remain largely unknown. The aim of my PhD is to uncover how oxidative damage effects egg development and whether oxidative stress is associated with the poor egg quality of women at the end of their reproductive life. Ultimately, my project aims to contribute to efforts in providing therapeutic intervention for woman choosing to have children later in life.
Bettina Mihalas, Professor Brett Nixon, Professor Eileen McLaughlin