They say that the possibility of making an accurate assessment of ovarian reserve will revolutionize the care of women seeking assisted conception, those who have had treatment for childhood cancer and women who may want to delay a family for personal or professional reasons.
"In essence, it means we now have the potential to be able to tell a woman how fast her biological clock is ticking and how much time she has before it will run down," said lead author Dr. Hamish Wallace, consultant paediatric oncologist at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, Scotland and a senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.
The findings are reported today (Thursday 17 June) in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction.
The human ovary contains a fixed pool of primordial eggs, which form in the fourth month of pregnancy. They peak at several million in the five-month foetus then start to decline. By birth, this number has already fallen significantly and the decline continues relentlessly. When the number reaches around 25,000 (corresponding to an average age of 37 years) the decline accelerates until numbers are down to around 1,000 follicles in a peri-menopausal woman.
Dr. Hamish Wallace and Dr Thomas Kelsey of the School of Computer Sciences at the University of St Andrews, developed their technique for measuring a woman's 'bioclock' by building on other research on follicle decline with age, and the relationship between follicle numbers and ovarian volume. They then applied the latest mathematical and computer models/analysis in such a way that they could descri