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Hum Reprod Update. 2000 Nov-Dec;6(6):532-49.

Consequences on offspring of abnormal function in ageing gametes.

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  • 1Department of Animal Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Valencia, Burjassot, Spain.


The present review aims to analyse (i) the molecular, biochemical and cellular changes that accompany oocyte and sperm ageing in any of the internal or external environments where they can reside, and (ii) the consequences of the abnormal function in ageing gametes on pre- and post-implantation development and later life of offspring. This review also aims to propose and discuss cellular/molecular mechanisms framed within the 'free radical theory of ageing'. It appears that the ageing of gametes prior to fertilization may affect many molecular, biochemical and cellular pathways that may jeopardize not only pre- and post-implantation embryo/fetal development but also later life of offspring. Consequences of gamete ageing range from decreased vigour (with the concomitant decrease in intelligence, reproductive fitness and longevity) of apparently normal-looking offspring to severe congenital, epigenetic and/or genetic anomalies. All these effects may be easily prevented by efficient diffusion of both the potential risks of gamete ageing and the steps that should be taken by couples wishing to achieve pregnancy to guarantee a correct maturational synchronization of gametes at fertilization. Although in-vitro antioxidant therapy appears to protect from or retard the ageing process of gametes, it may not assure the total absence of negative effects on the resulting offspring.

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