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Turbulent nature of menopause triggered by gene battles

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Posted December 10, 2013
Gene battles behind the turbulent nature of menopause
Credit: Paul Gauguin
The hormonal mayhem, reduced fertility and hot flushes experienced by a woman in the run up to menopause may owe to warfare between her own genes, according to a team of scientists working in the United Kingdom and Japan.

 

The study, which will appear in the February issue of the journal Ecology Letters, informs the development of personalised family planning and preventative medicine strategies for dealing with cardiovascular problems – and even some cancers.

Current evolutionary theory suggests that menopause was favoured among our ancestors because it let women focus on bringing up their relatives’ children, with whom they shared genes in common.

“But our ecology meant that a woman would typically be more related to her neighbours through her father than through her mother,” explains Dr Andy Gardner, an evolutionary biologist at the University of St Andrews. “So while the genes she got from her father would be happy for her to give up her reproduction in this way, the genes she got from her mother would be less happy.”

This conflict of interest within a women’s genome could explain why the menopausal transition is so turbulent.

Read more at: Phys.org

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