Drug protects mouse eggs from radiation

A drug that might preserve the fertility of women undergoing radiation treatment for cancer has met an important challenge. Female mice treated with the drug and then irradiated give birth to healthy offspring, according to a new study.

When women undergo radiation therapy, the treatment usually causes most of their egg cells to die, apparently because the radiation damages the cells’ DNA. Over the past few years, researchers have explored the potential of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), a type of lipid, to protect egg cells. S1P counters an enzyme that destroys radiation-damaged egg cells, and previous research has shown that injections of S1P into mice receiving radiation reduced egg deaths (SN: 10/7/00, p. 228).

However, that result left open the question of whether the surviving egg cells were normal. At the American Society for Cell Biology meeting last month in San Francisco, Richard N. Kolesnick of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York reported that irradiated female mice pretreated with S1P are fertile and that their offspring and a subsequent generation don’t have increased rates of genetic or physical defects. Kolesnick and his colleagues detailed some of their findings in the September, 2002 Nature Medicine.


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